BY AARON BRENNER | firstname.lastname@example.org
COLUMBIA – Plenty of rays with a healthy dose of cloud cover makes for a gorgeous day for baseball here at Carolina Stadium to open the Columbia NCAA Regional.
It’s not such a sunny forecast for Clemson junior first baseman Jon McGibbon, who won’t play this weekend due to a hamstring injury. A two-year starter hitting .285 who’s only missed one game this year, McGibbon’s 37 RBIs trail only Garrett Boulware on the Tigers.
McGibbon is replaced by Kevin Bradley, hitting .178 in limited duty this season.
On the mound for Clemson will be freshman left-hander Zack Erwin, who’s been pretty good since being promoted from the bullpen. In five starts, Erwin is 3-1 with a 3.90 ERA, and he put the Tigers in position to knock off top-ranked North Carolina in the ACC Tournament before a ninth-inning collapse.
The move is strategic, with coach Jack Leggett hoping Erwin and his defense can bridge the gap to a possible South Carolina showdown. With a win today, staff ace Daniel Gossett would be the logical pick to go Saturday night.
Still no word on Matthew Crownover’s official availability, though he continues to progress after missing the ACC Tournament with arm soreness.
Erwin is 5-1 with a 3.30 ERA overall, allowing opponents to hit .240 against him. He’ll oppose Liberty righty Josh Richardson (3-4, 2.45).
Clemson will bat last and wear the white jerseys with purple trim and orange lettering, hunkering down in the first-base dugout.
The Tigers’ starting lineup, with their batting averages:
CF Thomas Brittle .266
2B Steve Wilkerson .294
RF Steven Duggar .291
C Garrett Boulware .310
3B Shane Kennedy .317
SS Tyler Krieger .264
1B Kevin Bradley .178
DH Maleeke Gibson .236 (LHP Zack Erwin)
LF Mike Triller .360
And for Liberty:
RF Ashton Perritt .338
CF Ryan Cordell .262
C Trey Wimmer .303
DH Danny Grauer .287 (RHP Josh Richardson)
2B Bryan Aanderud .321
LF Justin Sizemore .262
1B Alex Close .217
SS Dalton Britt .245
3B Jake Kimble .178