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It’s time to pick them up or go home

It was the same ole story for Clemson.

Once again, the Tigers got runners in scoring position on Saturday night in their 9-4 loss to Vanderbilt in the Clemson Regional at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, but once again they could not pick them up when they needed to the most. Eleven times Clemson got runners in scoring position and just twice they picked those runners up.

“We just could not put together any kind of inning offensively where we could score some runs,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “We had some opportunities. We had some guys on base early in the ballgame and we just could not come up with a big hit with runners in scoring position.”

While Clemson (40-20) was struggling to come up with the big hit, Vanderbilt was making it look easy. The Commodores were 8-of-19 with runners in scoring position, including 8-for-17 with two outs.

The Tigers were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and two outs. This is a week after the Tigers left 12 runners stranded in scoring position against Duke in the ACC Championships and 16 in one game against Louisville last month.

“I thought the key to their team today, besides (Kyle Wright) and their bullpen with (Zach) King, was their two-out hits,” Lee said. “They just extended innings and extended innings and they scored four runs I believe in the six on a tough ground ball to the right side and then with a flair to left.

“They just did a really good job of extending innings and putting together good at-bats. I thought that was the biggest difference in the ballgame.”

While Vanderbilt (35-22-1) was bringing runners in, Clemson could not get the big hit when it needed to the most.

In the first inning, the Tigers had runners on second and third with one out, but failed to bring anyone home. Clemson had runners on first and second with one out again in the third inning, but Seth Beer struck out swinging and Reed Rohlman was caught stealing to end that threat.

With Clemson trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Grayson Byrd tripled to right centerfield with one out. But again, the Tigers could not bring him home as Kyle Wilkie lined out to first base and Logan Davidson grounded out to second base to end the inning.

When Clemson finally dented the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth inning thanks to Andrew Cox’s two-out double that scored Beer and Chase Pinder, the Commodores already had a 7-0 lead. Jordan Greene later singled through the right side to score Cox.

“We have to keep playing baseball,” Cox said. “That guy (Wright) is going to be the No. 1 overall pick so it is not an easy thing to do. It is not like it is a given every time someone is not on base, there is not a hundred percent success rate of driving those runs in.

“We just have to slow the game down, think, compete every pitch and try to get our best swing off because if we could extend some of those innings and chip back into the lead then maybe it would have been a different game.”

Regardless, if Clemson wants to figure out a way to get out of its own regional and advance to a super regional of the first time in seven years, it has to start picking up runners in scoring position. Otherwise, the season could be over by Sunday afternoon.

The Tigers will play UNC Greensboro, who it beat on Friday in Game 2 of the Clemson Regional, at 1 p.m. in the elimination game on Sunday. The winner of that game will take on Vanderbilt at 7 p.m., and will have to beat the Commodores twice to advance.

Game 7 in the regional will be played on Monday if necessary.

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