Clemson enters the final weekend of the ACC baseball season trailing Georgia Tech for the regular-season crown but playing its best baseball of the year.
The No. 6-ranked Tigers have finally become one cohesive unit, combining timely hitting with solid pitching. Displaying uncommon consistency in all facets of the game enabled Clemson to remain in the hunt for the ACC's regular-season title with a sweep last weekend of Florida State.
No. 7 Georgia Tech (40-13, 16-5 ACC) leads Clemson (40-12, 15-6 prior to Thursday's non-league game at Liberty) by one game with three to play. Clemson rides the hot bat of left fielder Casey Stone into this weekend's pivotal series at Virginia (23-27-1, 9-12).
Stone broke open the final contest with Florida State with a three-run double in the fourth inning and entered Thursday 11-for-17 in his last four games with nine RBI.
Finishing strong is crucial for the Tigers, whose doubleheader with Virginia on Saturday begins at noon.
"You want to be playing your best ball this time of year," Stone said. "We have to go up there and take care of business. These are big games as far as hosting a regional."
At stake for Clemson and Tech is the No. 1 seed in next week's ACC tournament at Charlotte Knights Stadium. Yellow Jackets' coach Danny Hall earned his 500th career-victory with a 16-7 win over Mercer on Tuesday. Georgia Tech's magic number for clinching the regular-season title is two.
Tech's final hurdle is No. 17 Wake Forest (37-14-1, 13-8), who the Jackets visit today for a 2 p.m. showdown. The Demon Deacons and FSU are still mathematically alive for a piece of the ACC crown but need to sweep their last three games and for Tech to collapse.
Hall understands an NCAA regional bid and a No. 1 seeding in the conference tournament can be wrapped up with a successful series at Wake Forest.
"You have to be pleased anytime that you can control your own destiny," Hall said, "and we have a chance to do that this weekend."
Clemson coach Jack Leggett takes a four-game ACC winning streak into the Virginia series. The Tigers also extended their streak of 40-or-more win seasons to 15 with the FSU sweep, but Leggett also has regional and ACC title aspirations.
"We have to take this show on the road and keep ourselves in line for the ACC title, tournament seeding and a regional," Leggett said.
Reach Jimmy DeButts at (706) 823-3221.
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