Over the years as a player and as a coach, Monte Lee has learned one thing. Once he starts looking ahead, his team as always lost.
So as No. 1 Clemson stares at the opportunity of being just five wins away from Omaha, Neb., and the College World Series, Lee says the only thing that matters right now to the Tigers is finding a way to win Friday’s game against UNC Greensboro in the Clemson Regional.
“I have learned a lot over the years about looking that far ahead,” Lee said. “You start looking six games away, you start looking six outs away and you start looking nine outs away and the next thing you know, you lose.”
The Tigers (39-19) can’t afford to be looking ahead at all right now. Though they come into the regional with new hope and enthusiasm, the fact of the matter is they struggled down the stretch, losing 11 of their finals 12 ACC games and 12 of their last 18 overall.
“I have learned the hard way many, many times. ‘Man! We are just six outs away from winning this thing.’ Then the next thing you know, something bad happens. So I don’t do that anymore. I really don’t,” Lee said. “I have learned my lesson. I don’t count down the outs. I don’t countdown stuff like that anymore. ‘To get to 40, we have to do this.’ I don’t do that anymore.”
The bottom line for Clemson is it has to play every inning and it has to play every pitch if they hope to advance and win its first regional in seven years. The Tigers last won a regional back in 2010 when it went to Auburn and won the Auburn Regional. A week later, they beat Alabama in the Clemson Super Regional to advance to the College World Series, the program’s last trip to Omaha.
“Our guys have to understand it goes from 295 teams to 64, and we are in the 64,” Lee said. “We are one of the 16 teams out of the 64 to host a regional so let’s enjoy it. Let’s just do everything we can to play our best baseball.
“There are no pilots on the team. We are all on the same team and we are all trying to go to the same place. Nobody is the pilot. We are all in this thing together so let’s compete as hard as we can. Have a lot of fun, believe in each other and see what happens.”