USC coach Chad Holbrook’s not too concerned with his team extending its school-record shutout streak of five straight games and 51 consecutive scoreless innings, a mark that’s not too far off Arizona State’s national record of 64 set in 1972.
He’s far more concerned about winning, especially since No. 11 Clemson will present greater challenges than did Bucknell, Presbyterian and Eastern Kentucky.
“We’re not going to plan to shut these guys out. They’re too good for that. They’re going to score their fair share of runs,” Holbrook said. “Asking our pitchers to shut them out is going to be asking too much. We have to find a way to win some 5-4 games and 4-3 games. That’s how I think they’re going to unfold.”
Two USC pitchers have given up runs on a staff with a 0.86 ERA. The starting rotation of Jordan Montgomery, Jack Wynkoop and Wil Crowe has been near-perfect, while a deep bullpen led by closer Joel Seddon also has piled up lots of outs.
“Our pitchers have been very, very solid,” Holbrook said. “They have thrown strikes. They’ve had great command of their secondary stuff. And when they had runners in scoring position, they really made their best pitches. I hope that bodes well for us.”
Catcher Grayson Greiner knows the pitchers have their hands full battling a Clemson lineup that includes outfielder Steven Duggar, catcher Garrett Boulware and shortstop Tyler Krieger.
“It’s, obviously, a pretty special streak they’ve got going. I’m sure they’re not thinking about that, and I’m not thinking about it,” Greiner said. “If they throw as well as they’ve thrown during that streak, it will definitely help our chances to beat a team the caliber of Clemson with their offensive talent.”
USC tossed two shutouts last season against the Tigers to win the series.
Pitching, Part II
Clemson’s staff features hard-throwing right-hander Daniel Gossett in Friday’s game against Montgomery. Holbrook effusively praised Gossett’s live arm, which should make for a great matchup to open the series. Clemson coach Jack Leggett agrees with that assessment.
“It is as good as it gets. Montgomery pitched really well against us last year,” Leggett said. “Goose has pitched pretty well against them. He is tough to hit and is a great competitor, and it is the same thing with Montgomery.”
Three days, three cities
Both coaches are happy with the format of the past four seasons, when their teams have played one home game each and one neutral-site game in a three-game weekend series.
Greenville’s Fluor Field has worked well as the neutral site because of its proximity to both schools. Charleston’s Riley Park served as the neutral site in 2012. With three sellouts on tap again this season, Holbrook calls it a football atmosphere in baseball parks.
“It’s great theater,” he said.
Leggett feels the same way, noting the format helps enhance the intensity.
“I think this is one of the better weekend rivalry series in the country. The three venues that we play at are sold out and there are people all over the place,” Leggett said. “There is a lot of interest from the fans in the state because it is a great intrastate rivalry. That makes it a big deal.”