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Tough ACC schedule provides tough test for young Tiger team: Florida State is the team to beat in the ACC

Clemson baseball opens the season against Wright State on Feb. 17 at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. 

Several fans may look at the matchup and anticipate an easy win. However, the Raiders have made it to the regional finals each of the last two years. In 2016, they lost to national seeded Louisville as a No. 3 seed in their regional. 

This is just one of the tough tests the Tigers will have to face this season if they want to replicate and build upon their success last season. 

Playing in one of the toughest conferences is never easy, but Clemson really faces the gauntlet this year with matchups against conference powerhouses such as Louisville and Florida State. 

The Seminoles are the team to beat in the ACC this year. They return most of their team from last year’s superregional appearance and are ranked No. 2 in the preseason polls by Baseball America. The Tigers defeated Florida State 2-1 in a three game series in Clemson last season before beating them in Durham for the ACC Championship title. This season, the Tigers travel to Tallahassee and are missing some of the hitting power that propelled them over the Seminoles in the 18-15 shootout for the ACC crown. 

Clemson has home series against Virginia, Louisville and Wake Forest that will be crucial in determining how the Tigers fare in the postseason. The Tigers faced all three of these teams last year in the ACC Tournament, defeating each of them on the way to a 4-0 record at the tournament. This year, these teams return a lot of their talent while the Tigers are replacing virtually their entire infield and breaking in a new pitching rotation. 

Virginia is a team that won the College World Series in 2015 with a very young team of inexperienced freshman. 

Now, all of those young players are veterans hoping to lead the Cavaliers back to Omaha. They will have to replace their star catcher and power hitter, Matt Thaiss and shortstop Daniel Pinero, but are otherwise in top form for the 2017 season. 

When the Cavaliers come to town in mid-March, the Tigers will have to rely on young arms to keep the talented offense in check while dealing with some of the best arms in the conference in the other dugout. 

Clemson will not have to face Miami this year after getting swept in Coral Gables last year, including two walk-off wins for the Hurricanes. 

However, the Louisville Cardinals come to Doug Kingsmore in May and they are another team that swept the Tigers during the regular season last year. The Cardinals lost seven players to the draft, all of them key pieces to both their offense and defense. They are returning two-way player Brendan McKay, the star left-handed pitcher and power-hitter. 

The Tigers are familiar with McKay and should be prepared for him. Luckily for the young rotation, Louisville lost a lot of their offensive power and should be beatable at home. 

Wake Forest was a bit of a surprise last year, making their first regional appearance since 2007. Their star third baseman/pitcher/hitter Will Craig left for the draft, but the Demon Deacons are returning their entire rotation and most of their offensive power. 

The Tigers won their regular season matchups with the Demon Deacons in a 2-1 fashion, and defeated them in the final game before the championship in Durham. This team will be a tougher test this year and is likely going to make another run at the postseason. 

Aside from the grueling conference schedule, the Tigers also play a couple tough series outside of the ACC. In-state rival South Carolina is currently ranked No. 5 in the preseason polls and will be a tough test early in the season for the young Tiger team. 

Western Carolina always puts up a fight against Clemson, as does Furman. The Tigers also host the reigning College World Series Champion, Coastal Carolina in May. 

All of these games will prove vital to the Tigers’ success. 

Clemson’s schedule is not doing them any favors this year, but with the tough test, the selection committee is likely to be kind if the Tigers drop a couple series, assuming they keep a good midweek record. 

The Tigers have a tough road if they want to end their season in Omaha. 

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