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Big tests waiting for Tigers in ACC

Clemson's ACC baseball tournament title hopes and hosting candidacy will be decided this week in Greensboro, N.C., with the opening test coming at 8 tonight against N.C. State.

To advance to Sunday's championship game, the Tigers must navigate through some of the ACC's stronger lineups.

N.C. State (532 runs, 90 home runs) and Saturday' opponent, Georgia Tech (517, runs 111 home runs), rank 1-2 in the ACC in home runs and runs scored. To add further difficulty for Clemson pitchers, NewBridge Bank Park is a hitter-friendly venue.

The Tigers, Wolfpack, Hokies (44-11, 21-9) and Yellow Jackets comprise Division B and will play each other once in the round-robin format. The division winner advances to Sunday's title game.

The Tigers were a combined 6-3 against their division opponents this spring, sweeping N.C. State and Virginia Tech in March before losing three straight to the Yellow Jackets last month in Atlanta. Clemson has won 12 of its past 14 games.

"I think we are playing good baseball now," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "The key is to maintain it. If you think you've got it figured out, this game will come up and slap you in the back of the head."

The Tigers (37-19, 18-12) should be motivated playing for a league title, and potentially home-field advantage in the NCAA tournament.

Seventh-seeded N.C. State (36-20, 15-15) is playing for even more.

N.C. State is projected as one of the last 10 teams out of the NCAA field by ESPN, and Baseball America has the Wolfpack and North Carolina as ACC bubble teams.

The Wolfpack's regular No. 1 starter is Jake Buchanan, but N.C. State will start left-hander Alex Sogard (1-2, 5.49 ERA) in an effort to neutralize Clemson's heavy left-handed lineup.

Clemson went 3-0 against Florida State's lefties last weekend, but the Tigers entered their final regular season series 11-12 against lefties.

Leggett will counter with ace Casey Harman tonight.

"I always like to put out our best foot forward in the first ballgame," Leggett said. "Win the first ballgame and put yourself in the right frame of mind."

Notes

Clemson is off Thursday before facing Virginia Tech (36-19, 16-14) at 4 p.m. Friday. Clemson will likely start Scott Weismann.

Clemson has not named a starter for the Georgia Tech game at 4 p.m. Saturday. Georgia Tech's top five batters Thomas Nichols (.384 avg., 10 home runs), Tony Plagman (.371, 19), Derek Dietrich (.374, 16), Chase Burnette (.354, 15) and Matt Skole (.346, 18) are all left-handed. Left-hander Will Lamb, who has been out of the rotation since April 18, could get the call for the Tigers.

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