ecent years, though, his clubs have gotten lapped by the championship program at South Carolina, which has won national titles in 2010 and 2011 and knocked the rival Tigers from the NCAA tournament in two of the past four seasons.

Last June, all the buzz was about the Clemson-South Carolina showdown ahead when the two teams were matched up in NCAA's Columbia Regional. Instead, the Tigers lost two straight to Big South champ Liberty and never faced the Gamecocks.

<--ASSET:68->''Every team is going to lose its last game of the year unless you win a national championship, which is very tough to do,'' said Leggett, who'll turn 60 in March. ''It's always a motivating factor whether you lose in a regional, a super regional or in Omaha. It always stinks getting on the bus and starting over again.''

But while last year's lineup had seven players in their first-ever NCAA tournament games, this year's squad is filled with experience and depth.

The Tigers began workouts in 30-degree temperatures. For Leggett, though, it was good to get back to business after the past few weeks when the spotlight was focused on him instead of the players.

Leggett thinks the Tigers have worked hard in the offseason and look ready to take a major step forward.

One big piece of the puzzle most likely won't play until late April. Designated hitter Shane Kennedy is recovering from a torn knee ligament suffered in fall practice. Leggett said Kennedy, a second team all-Atlantic Coast Conference member, was progressing well and hoped to have him back this season.

One of Clemson's biggest issues last season was the critical hit that didn't come. The Tigers were among the back half of the ACC in most major offensive categories and were just ninth of 12 teams a year ago with a .276 batting average.

Tyler Slayton, who played left field last year, will move to center to replace Thomas Brittle.

Catcher Garrett Boulware, the team's leader with eight homers and 45 RBIs in 2013, said Clemson's experience from last year will help this season. ''It's not even that we really struggled last year, it was just timely hitting,'' he said. ''I don't think we'll have a proble