After beating Nevada in Game 1, Clemson head coach Monte Lee challenged his team to play better in Game 2 of the three-game series. He wanted to see them play with more of a sense of urgency, especially with 10 games remaining in the regular season. More than anything, he wanted to see them play better baseball.
What he got instead was a stunning 7-5 loss to a Nevada team that has already lost 30 games this season in 45 tries. The sixth-ranked Tigers came out flat in the early part of the game on Sunday as starter Alex Eubanks struggled to find his spots and the offense failed to get anything going at the plate.
By the time Clemson (35-12) got anything to work right, it was too late for a comeback as Seth Beer’s groundball to first base with runners on first and second base in the bottom of the ninth inning ended the game.
“I’m disappointed, but I don’t think it’s because we were necessarily flat,” Lee said. “The bottom line is we just have to play better baseball. It is on me too. I have to find the right message.”
That message didn’t come through on Sunday, at least early in the game. By the time the Tigers did get the message they found themselves down 6-0 to the 227th-ranked RPI team in the country.
Clemson has now lost five of its last seven games after starting the season 33-7 in the first 40 games.
“We are trying to do everything we can as a coaching staff, but we are 40-plus games into the season,” Lee said. “Our guys have to understand this sense of urgency that we have to have here at the end of the season to try and put ourselves in a good position.”
Junior outfielder Chase Pinder, who had his second home run of the series on Sunday, said the loss to Nevada was like any loss he has had in his career, they’re all painful. But the loss to Nevada was tough because of the way they lost.
“You have to give credit to them. They played a good game and had a bunch of hits,” he said. “I think they had 13 or 14 hits, but we just were not executing earlier in the game. We tried to catch up late, but what are you going to do down 7-2 with two innings to go.
“We will get better and we will come back tomorrow strong.”
Though the Tigers have lost a few games recently and have found different ways to do it each time, Pinder says he is not panicking just yet.
“I feel like we are okay right now,” he said. “We just have to come together as a team. We have so many things now we can do because we are out of school so we have a lot of free time. But we have to focus in and start by winning tomorrow and carry that into the week.”
Clemson will have to get focused soon. After Monday’s rubber game against Nevada (at noon), the Tigers travel to Greenville on Tuesday to play Furman at Fluor Field, and then on Friday they host No. 2 Louisville in a key three-game series which could decide the ACC Atlantic Division race.
In other words, with nine games remaining in the regular season, the Tigers have to get focused now if they want to put themselves in position to be a national seed.
“We talk about all of those things and try to be honest with our guys with the focus and the sense of urgency and the passion we have to have every single day,” Lee said. “We are coming out and playing as hard as we can. It is there, but we have to find a way to play good baseball.
“We have played really good baseball for the majority of this season, but we have been struggling here lately. We have had some injuries, but that is not going to be an excuse for us. We are not going to use those as excuses. We are going to find a way to get the next man in there and the next man has to step up for us.”