For the second year in a row, the Clemson baseball team sat in anticipation as the NCAA Tournament Selection Show announced its regional selections on Monday.
The Tigers were selected as the No. 1 seed in the Clemson (S.C.) Regional at Doug Kingsmore Stadium and will play No. 4 seed UNC Greensboro in its regional opener on Friday at 7 p.m. Second seeded Vanderbilt and No. 3 seed St. John’s will face off on Friday at noon.
Following the regional announcement, head coach Monte Lee, Charlie Barnes, Andrew Cox, and Seth Beer spoke to the media about their initial reactions to the regional announcement.
Here is what we heard:
When Lee heard Clemson was selected to host a regional, his immediate reaction was one of excitement and gratefulness for the opportunity.
“I’m very excited for our players and our program and our fans here in Clemson,” Lee said. “To be able to bring a Regional to Clemson in back-to-back years is special. We love playing at home, so we’re really excited and grateful for the opportunity to be able to host a regional in Doug Kingsmore Stadium this weekend.”
Among the many players who expressed their enthusiasm, Cox shared his initial reaction to the regional announcement.
“There are 295 teams in this country,” Cox said. “We’re fortunate enough to be one of the 64 to keep playing and continue our season. We couldn’t be more excited and thankful to be able to start that new season on the opening day here at Doug Kingsmore.”
During the NCAA Tournament Selection Show, ESPN debated whether or not Clemson should have been selected to host a regional, given the Tigers’ late-season struggles in the regular season.
As a team who was ranked in top 10 in the country for many weeks earlier in the season, the Tigers believe their overall body of work earned them the opportunity to host a regional. Many players and Lee don’t make much of the criticism.
“I don’t make anything of it,” Lee said. “Everybody has their own opinions and that’s okay. What I think and what I believe in is never going to come from the outside in. It’s always going to come from the inside out.”
Though players and coaches aren’t buying into the criticism, Barnes explained it provides the team with motivation going into the tournament.
“You can definitely use that as motivation,” Barnes said. “At the end of the day, it’s just comments. That’s their job, to critique people and it’s our job to play. So we can’t really read into it too much. But, it can definitely add a chip on our shoulder.”
As the Tigers prepare for their regional opener this week, Lee’s message to his team is plain and simple: The post season is a chance for a fresh start.
“The post season is a new season,” Lee said. “It’s completely different than the regular season. It’s a different schedule, it’s a different atmosphere. You can take what we have accomplished in the regular season and now you can throw it out the window.”
The significance of Lee’s message was apparent through many of the players’ interviews, who all touched on the fact this is a new season, a chance to start from square one.
“I think the biggest thing for us throughout this week is knowing that this is a brand new season,” Beer said. “This is all starting over again. We’re starting at square one. Nothing else matters. I think that’s refreshing for us.”