Clemson expert lays out what Florida Baseball must do to win Super Regional match up

Florida will travel to Clemson this weekend with a trip to the College World Series on the line
Florida baseball head coach Kevin O'Sullivan watches from the dugout during Game 1 of a doubleheader against Tennessee on May 3. The Gators need to win 3 of their final 6 games to ensure an NCAA Tournament berth this season
Florida baseball head coach Kevin O'Sullivan watches from the dugout during Game 1 of a doubleheader against Tennessee on May 3. The Gators need to win 3 of their final 6 games to ensure an NCAA Tournament berth this season / Cyndi Chambers / USA TODAY NETWORK

Whether or not one believes that Florida Baseball should have made the NCAA Tournament is a discussion for another time because the Gators made their way through the Stillwater Regional and are playing this weekend against Clemson in a Super Regional match-up.

To get a better idea of what to expect from the Tigers, we teamed up with our Fansided sister site Rubbing The Rock and asked site expert John Chancey some questions in advance of the series.

Hail Florida Hail:

I was shocked to learn that Clemson hadn't been to a Super Regional since 2010. What has held the program back, and what went different this year?

John Chancey:

There is no single answer. Long-time coach Jack Leggett was dismissed following the 2015 season after Clemson had failed to advance out of five straight Regionals. The perception at the time was that the game had passed Leggett by and the Tigers needed a younger head coach who had better recruiting relationships in-state.

Monte Lee fit that profile and things started well, but the program declined further. The main criticism of Lee was a failure to develop pitchers and a reliance on home runs instead of getting players on-base and advancing them. Clemson ultimately missed the playoffs completely in Lee’s final two seasons.

Erik Bakich was successful in immediately changing the culture. He made players practice in plain caps without a Clemson logo until they earned his trust. He brought in Jimmy Bellinger to develop the pitching staff and brought Leggett back in a player development role. He promoted an offense that used small-ball in addition to going for the fences.

Clemson won the ACC in 2023 but ran into a Tennessee team in the Regional that had a similar profile to Florida and LSU this season: they had the talent but didn’t put everything together until late. The Tigers have pressed through injuries at the mid-season to finally advance to a Super Regional.


Clemson is 30-6 at home this year vs 10-7 on the road. Is there anything specific to how Clemson stylistically plays that their ballpark helps with?


Not really. Coach Bakich would argue that Clemson doesn't have much of a home advantage. He has been critical of the crowds at Doug Kingsmore Stadium for being too relaxed. He has been pushing the fans to be louder and more engaged.

Most who follow the program would probably point towards the injury to Andrew Ciufo around mid-season that really upset the chemistry the Tigers had through the first half of the season.

The Tigers were 28-3 through April 7th, and were 10-2 away from DKS. After that they were 12-10 to finish the regular season. Five of those losses were at home and five were on the road. Three of the five losses came at Wake Forest when the Deacons swept the Tigers.

Ciufo’s absence at shortstop forced the Tigers to rearrange their infield, and their defense dipped for a time. 


Clemson was swept by Wake Forest in their second to last series of the season, but have been 7-1 since. What went wrong against Wake that was fixed afterward?


As noted, defense swooned a bit late in the season and has since bounced back, but against Wake the Tigers just couldn’t put the ball in play.

Honestly, the bulk of the credit for that series goes to the Deacons’ pitchers. They just looked great. Chase Burns pitched 7 innings and had 16 strikeouts in Game 1. Their staff pitched 14 strikeouts by committee in Game 2 and Josh Hartle had 9 strikeouts in 6 innings in Game 3. It is kind of shocking that Wake went two and barbeque in the playoffs.

Bakich said he wasn’t worried and sure enough Clemson put double-digit runs across the plate in all three games of their season-ending series against Boston College.


Cam Cannarella and Blake Wright are the headliners in Clemson's lineup. Anyone else who Tigers fans are counting on to get Clemson to Omaha?


Jacob Hinderleider played very well in the Regional, earning the MVP. Alden Mathes, Jimmy Obertop, and Tristan Bissetta have all been important at the plate for Clemson in the postseason as well.

The biggest performances in the Regional came on the mound. Each of Clemson’s starting pitchers went at least four innings in each game and the bullpen held strong from there. Freshman Aidan Knaak has been very consistent for the Tigers this season. He will likely start Game 1 on Saturday.


We thank John for his time and you can check out all of his coverage of the Clemson Tigers at Rubbing The Rock.