Before the Florida State series last month, No. 8 Clemson had not lost back-to-back games all year. Now, they’re coming off a stretch in which it has lost four of its last five, including a three-game sweep by No. 3 North Carolina last weekend in Chapel Hill, N.C.
What made the three losses even tougher was the fact the Tigers had the lead going into the sixth inning in all three games. They blew a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth in Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Tar Heels and one-run leads on Friday and Sunday.
With Clemson (34-11, 16-8 ACC) having the last five days off as part of exam week, head coach Monte Lee did not talk much about the three losses to North Carolina, instead he let them kind of sink in as they went through the week as the Tigers get ready to host Nevada for a three-game series starting on Saturday.
“At least for this year, it was kind of the first time we went through something like that where we were in position to win each game and lost them late,” Lee said. “They were pretty painful losses for our guys and for myself.”
Lee said he looked at the results of the UNC series as an opportunity for his team to learn and grow from their mistakes.
“What can we do better,” he said he asked to himself.
The main two things the Tigers can do a better job of is scoring when runners are in scoring position and then preventing runs from scoring when pitchers inherit runners on base. These are two trends that began in the FSU series and only got worse in the following weeks.
“We are focusing on a few things this week from our pitching staff and with our hitters,” Lee said. “We will try to make that message as simple and singular as possible. It is really trying to focus on what we do with runners on base both pitching wise and hitting wise.
“We have worked on it a little bit by having some competitive live pens and putting runners on base, focusing on executing pitches, executing a game plan with our hitters and really just trying to walk them through and putting them in position to make them more successful on both sides.”
The message has been to stay calm, stay aggressive and have a plan.
“That’s really been the big focus this week,” Lee said. “The guys understand what we have to get better at and hopefully we can carry that into this weekend.”
Clemson will host Nevada in Game 1 on Saturday beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.