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Baseball Preview: Clemson

Carolina faces the Clemson Tigers at 3pm Friday in its last game of the ACC tournament. The Heels need a win to improve their shot at a bid for the NCAA tournament.

Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports

After losing to FSU 8-4 on Thursday the Heels face a quick turnaround before taking the field again against the Tigers at 3:00 PM on Friday. Carolina needs to beat a team they went 2-1 against in the regular season to improve their resume for the NCAA selection committee. Even though niether team can win the ACC title, Clemson comes into the game with all the positive momentum the Heels lack. Clemson is 8-2 in their last ten games and Carolina is 2-8 in their last ten games. Carolina needs to reverse that trend if they want to feel better about their chances of making the tournament going forward.

The Tigers come into the game on a hot streak and their offense has been humming lately. Clemson is led by Reed Rohlman on offense, hitting .363 on the season. The Tigers have three other hitters routinely in the lineup with batting averages above .300. Clemson also boasts the best team batting average of the ACC foes UNC has played in the tournament so far and there are not a lot of easy outs in their order. When the two teams played earlier this season Carolina also walked an average of five Tiger hitters per game. The Tigers hit better now than they did then and giving them extra base runners via walks could end Carolina's season if they take a bad loss. It is important that the Heels stay disciplined while pitching and on defense so that Clemson does not get any free or easy runs. If gifted opportunities the Tigers will hurt the Heels.

Carolina will face Brody Koerner who is by far Clemson's weakest starting pitcher, sporting a 7.55 ERA. Koerner was who the Heels beat this season in their lone win against Clemson. Koerner will be matched up against J. B. Bukauskas. Bukauskas should get plenty of run support from his offense since Koerner allows a .331 batting average in addition to his large ERA. The downside of Koerner's appearance is that he rarely throws many innings and as such the Tiger bullpen will come in and with multiple arms which rate better than Koerner, the offense might dry up for the Heels after a hotter start. Carolina will need to stay consistent to attempt to both build a lead and keep it as the afternoon wears on. Bukauskas handled Clemson well in the season only allowing two runs and five hit in 8.1 innings' work in his lone game against the Tigers.

The bottom line is that Carolina needs to win this game to solidify their resume and make a final push for more post season ball. If they give Bukauskas run support then this game should be very win-able, especially since Clemson has nothing to play for.