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Clemson's Gossett returning to face rugged Virginia

Playing at the University of Virginia, at or near the top of most Top 25 rankings, is tough enough. Doing it with some key players on the shelf is like facing Goliath without a slingshot. It appeared that Clemson might be a bit shorthanded after missing a key member of the rotation a week ago, but the Tigers likely will head to Charlottesville, Va., at full strength.

Virginia is playing without outfielder Derek Fisher, its top Draft prospect who is recovering from a hamate bone injury in his right hand. But the rest of that deep team is firing on all cylinders, from a starting rotation of underclassmen to closer Nick Howard, a potential early-round pick, along with intriguing Draft-eligible position players Mike Papi and Brandon Downes.

"Their pitching is always sound and they compete," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "Offensively, they're an execution-type team. You have to play defense to beat them. You have to grind it out all weekend. It'll be a challenge for us. We're looking forward to it. It helps that everyone's healthy."

The key returnee is right-handed starter Daniel Gossett. Gossett, believed to have top-three-rounds-type talent, missed his start a week ago against North Carolina State because of shoulder soreness. But Gossett, 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA over his first seven starts, won't have any restrictions when he takes the ball on Saturday.

"He'll be fine; he feels good, confident," Leggett said. "He woke up with soreness last week, maybe he slept on it wrong. He'll be ready to go."

Gossett began the year as Clemson's Friday night starter, but for this week, he's flip-flopping with Draft-eligible sophomore Matt Crownover. While Gossett features more of a power arsenal -- 90-93 mph fastball, hard slider -- Crownover is more of the prototypical college lefty. He'll top out in the upper-80s, with a good changeup and breaking ball. Crownover, a little less highly regarded than Gossett, but still a top-10-rounds type, is a strike-thrower who mixes his pitches well, to the tune of a 6-2 record and a 2.24 ERA over nine outings.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for and writes a blog, B3. Follow