York High graduate Will Lamb is Clemson's most versatile baseball player

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Will Lamb was toes-in-the-water, fanny-in-the-sand relaxed Monday afternoon in Clemson's bullpen. The Tigers led Alabama by seven runs, were three outs from the College World Series and had the home crowd roaring.

Sunscreen, pulp fiction and a cold pop, anyone?

One error, four hits and five Crimson Tide runs later, Lamb was pacing and begging for the baseball. Pitching coach Dan Pepicelli and head coach Jack Leggett heard and responded.

A York High graduate, Lamb entered the game with two outs, runners on second and third and Clemson nursing an 8-6 edge. To the plate stepped Alabama third baseman Jake Smith, who'd hit a home run in each of the first two games in this best-of-three NCAA Super Regional.

Lamb, a 6-foot-5 sophomore left-hander, threw nothing but fastballs. The fourth induced a fly to left field.

"When he hit it, I thought, 'He did NOT just hit a home run, did he?' " Lamb said.

Smith did not. Left-fielder Jeff Schaus squeezed the ball, and Lamb's teammates buried him in an infield flesh pile.

"I was stuck on the bottom," Lamb said. "I have a huge charley horse on my right leg."

It's nothing that will keep him out of the double-elimination Series in Omaha, Neb., where Clemson opens Sunday against top-seeded Arizona State.

The more relevant question about Lamb is, how will Clemson use him? He's been an effective designated hitter, first baseman, spot starter and reliever. He's blessed with extraordinary speed and plays a mean center field, as he did for the Peninsula Pilots last summer.

"I love hitting, I love running, I love pitching," Lamb said. "I really wouldn't want to give anything up."

"He is trying to play a position and he is trying to pitch at the highest level," Pepicelli told clemsontigers.com. "Being able to keep his focus on both tasks is very hard."

Lamb's numbers, good but far from great, reflect that challenge.

Batting mostly leadoff, he is hitting .290 with four home runs and 14 steals in as many attempts. He's 4-4 on the mound with two saves and a 4.93 ERA in 17 appearances, 10 of them starts.

Lamb will be eligible for the Major League Baseball draft next June — he said he'll forgo his senior season if selected early enough — and knows full well how scouts view him.

"I feel I have more potential as a pitcher," Lamb said. "I'm long, I'm lanky, I'm lefty and I throw hard."

Indeed, southpaws who routinely hit the low-90s on the radar gun are rare.

"He's one in a million," former York coach Bob Pearce said. "The big thing is, he's a competitor. The better the competition, the better he is."

No doubt. Lamb's victories this season came in starts against NCAA tournament teams Virginia, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, the latter in the ACC tournament, and Horizon League finalist Wright State. His other save came versus NCAA qualifier North Carolina.

"It's a different mindset," Lamb said of pitching against ranked opponents. "Going out there and knowing the other team might be better, you want to prove you're (the best). It's just a great feeling. 'Here it is, try and hit it.' "

After the College World Series, Lamb will return to his parents' Seaford home and relax for a spell before reporting to the Cape Cod League's Hyannis Hawks.

"My sister Rachel graduates (from York) on Friday," Lamb said. "I wish I could be there for her, but we fly to Omaha on Thursday."

Here's guessing he'll be excused.

David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime
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