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March 9, 2011

Leggett reaches out

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CLEMSON, S.C. -- Jack Leggett seldom sleeps well after losing, but last night was more fitful than usual because of the controversy that swirled around Clemson's three-game baseball series with South Carolina.

Leggett awoke and read a newspaper account of Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner blasting him. Then he listened to an audio clip of Tanner's press conference that followed Tuesday night's 5-4 South Carolina victory in Greenville.

Leggett figured it was time not only to address the issues with Tanner, but to resolve them. He picked up the phone and called his counterpart, and earlier this afternoon Leggett told reporters that the 45-minute conversation smoothed things over between the two.

"Both sides did a good job of playing the game," Leggett said. "And in the end, I think that's what the story should've been. It was a little unfortunate that it wasn't."

Leggett wouldn't talk specifics, but he said it was a "very profitable discussion" and that he feels "a lot better about things" after two days of talk about hot bats and loose lips consumed both programs.

"Obviously we're not going to agree on everything, but ... I think it's mutual," Leggett said. "We both apologized a little bit to each other for some of the things that happened on both sides and things that might have been said. And I want everybody to know that this step was taken so we can move on to the next thing."

When Leggett stopped Sunday's game in Clemson to call attention to Jackie Bradley Jr.'s bat after Bradley grooved an opposite-field homer in the first inning, it highlighted Clemson's belief that the Gamecocks were heating their bats. This belief originated in Friday night's game in Columbia after Tigers catcher Spencer Kieboom noticed that the Gamecocks' bats were hot to the touch.

The rivalry's flames were fanned even more after Sunday's 10-5 Clemson victory, when veteran outfielder Will Lamb volunteered his opinion that Gamecocks pitcher Tyler Webb was "soft."

This provoked some snarky responses Monday from South Carolina players.

Early in Tuesday's game, the umpire issued a warning to both dugouts. Lamb and South Carolina third baseman Adrian Morales appeared to exchange some harsh words later in the game. And after the Gamecocks held off a late rally to claim the series, Tanner let loose.

He said Leggett's stoppage of play Sunday "was a bunch of shenanigans." He defended the practice of heating bats, saying teams from up North do it. He intimated that his relationship with Leggett was damaged.

"I didn't appreciate it. I'm offended by it," Tanner told reporters Tuesday night. "I don't cheat. I don't allow my players to cheat. I haven't done anything wrong. I felt like we were called out a little bit."

Leggett didn't have an opportunity to respond to Tanner's opinions Tuesday night because Tanner's press conference followed Leggett's.

Leggett, who acknowledged that Tanner's outburst played a role in his decision to call Tanner, said the two coaches "hashed everything out from start to finish from the whole weekend."

"I obviously felt strongly about some things, and he did too. I think we're just going to leave it between us and tell you we hashed it out. We're ready to move on and play baseball and give both of our teams the respect they deserve and try to concentrate on that aspect of it."

The two coaches visited extensively Saturday in Greenville as they were trying to work out the schedule amid the rain that ended up imposing the postponing of the second game.

At the time of their conversation Saturday, Leggett said, he had not yet been informed that the Gamecocks' bats were hot in Friday night's game.

"I really never had a chance to talk to the players and the issues that were there on Friday night. I did not know anything when I was talking to him face to face, or we would've talked about it face to face."

Leggett said he also wants Bradley Jr. to know it was never anything personal.

"He's certainly one of the better players I have had the chance to play against in my 34 years of coaching, and I have tremendous respect for what kind of athlete he is and what his future is in baseball and how hard he plays and how talented he is. I would not want him to think this was about his bat or his trying to do something in the wrong way."

There are no known NCAA rules prohibiting the heating of bats. Leggett was asked if he generally places a priority on adhering to ethical standards as well.

"I think in all parts of life, not everything is written in the rule book and there are certain ethical things that everybody shouldn't cross in every walk of life, simple as that," he said. "I trust Ray Tanner. I trust what he's thinking and what his philosophy on things are. It was one of those things where I was kind of defending my team at the time, just as he was defending his team. That's the way it is sometimes."

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