It was pretty apparent on Monday as Clemson’s coaches and players spoke to the media for the first time since being awarded as one of the NCAA’s 16 regional sites for this week’s NCAA Tournament that they had no idea they were getting one.
They weren’t gathered around the computer as a group watching Facebook Live when the selections were released on Sunday night. Pitcher Charlie Barnes and a few of his teammates were at his apartment. Outfielder Seth Beer was at family barbeque with his girlfriend. First baseman Andrew Cox was strolling through Twitter while sitting on his couch, and head coach Monte Lee was moving into his new house, which did not have cell phone service.
“We are getting in the car to go get something to eat because we had been moving from one house to the other and my daughter Shelby holds her cell phone, because she actually got a little bit of service and I couldn’t, and she literally put it right in my face and said, ‘Dad! We are hosting! We are hosting,’” Lee recalled of the conversation. “I was like, ‘Really!’ And then I looked at it, and I’m like, ‘Yeah! Alright! Well let’s go get some food.’”
Clemson, the No. 1 seed, will host Vanderbilt (No. 2), St. John’s (No. 3) and UNC Greensboro (No. 4) in the Clemson Regional, which is set to begin on Friday at noon at Doug Kingsmore Stadium with Vanderbilt playing St. John’s. Clemson will play UNC Greensboro at 7 p.m. on the same day.
Beer said he was surprised when his girlfriend tapped him on the shoulder on Sunday night and told him they were going to be host a regional for a second straight year.
“I tried to hide it,” Beer said about how he acted when he heard the news. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I knew that the whole time,’ but obviously, you don’t want to think one way or the other so I was trying to stay as even keel as much as I could so I was not shocked by any kind of result that might have happened.
“It was more exciting than anything. I love playing in front of this home crowd and I know all of my teammates to do. So just being able to bring that back from all the memories that I had from last year in the regional and now we get to start some new ones.”
Many figured Clemson (39-19) would not host a regional after it was embarrassed by Virginia in the ACC Championships last week in Louisville, Ky. The Tigers entered the tournament with only a 6-12 record down the stretch, including a 3-7 mark in their last 10 games.
It also didn’t help that the Tigers had lost 11 of their last 12 games. That’s why Cox was stunned when he saw Clemson’s name pop up on Twitter as one of the host sites.
“I was at home by myself laying on the couch watching TV so I was just kind of screaming, laughing and just in disbelief and excited about it right there by myself,” Cox said. “We are just super pumped about it and excited to get to work.”
Cox knows some people are upset Virginia did not get a regional and was sent out to Fort Worth, Texas to play in TCU’s regional, but he feels like Clemson earned the right to be a host despite how things went at the end of the season.
“I think we had a good body of work over the season and I know we hit a tough stretch down the last month of the season,” he said. “But I never stopped believing in myself and I never stopped believing in my teammates and I never stopped believing in the finish product that this team has.
“It is a new season. All of that stuff is out of the picture now. There is nothing we can focus on or think about. All of our focus and energy is directed at playing the best baseball we can at Doug Kingsmore in this new season.”