Clemson and Vanderbilt haven’t met since 1986 – and won’t this weekend in Nashville without an upset or two, but the programs really couldn’t be much more familiar with each other.
Commodores coach Tim Corbin was an assistant at Clemson under Jack Leggett for nine years before a run of 500-plus wins and Vandy’s first CWS bid.
The bond between Leggett and Corbin is tight – Corbin having asked Leggett to speak TO his team during last year’s NCAA tournament, and in return, introducing the Tigers’ coach at his hall of fame induction in January.
It isn’t just baseball success that Corbin owes to the longtime Clemson skipper.
“He’s everything – my lifestyle’s because of Jack Leggett,” Corbin said. “My wife is because of Jack Leggett, really. The first week I was there, he set up a date with Maggie, and she probably didn’t want to date me. She became my wife. Everything I have as a college baseball coach at this level is because of coach Leggett.
“Your thought processes – your approach, your respect for certain things is nurtured by him. He’s like a brother.”
Both he and Leggett knew this day might come, but at the end of the day, the game is about the players.
“They are very knowing of (Leggett) and they are very knowing of Clemson,” Corbin said. “They understand my background there. Probably a lot of their program comes out here. (Indeed, at the plate the schools are within two of each other in batting average and stolen bases – six apart in runs).
“It’s just the way baseball is. The kids have to play. For us, it’s just the Xavier Regional right now (their first opponent at 8 p.m. Friday) and whatever happens from there – they have to do their job and we have to do our job. We’re just going to worry about Vanderbilt now.”
The No. 20 Commodores (41-18) have the second-highest RPI of a non-national seed (8) after starting the season 18-3, but went 5-6 down the stretch – all losses against ranked competition, including 2-of-3 in their home series finale to South Carolina and a 1-2 run at the SEC tournament.
“We can put that in perspective, too,” Corbin said. “We went through the gauntlet the last three weeks really – we played quality, quality opponents – Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi and LSU, and don’t leave out the Tennessee game, you’re talking about a team playing for its life, so to speak. We had to beat them. The tournament has to be put behind us quick . We’ve played good baseball throughout the year, and I really like our team.”