By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush.
The proper response to Clemson’s inclusion in the NCAA Baseball Tournament isn’t really obvious. In all honesty, it’s pretty confusing.
Do we sigh with relief that the Tigers did just enough to be one of the last four teams selected to compete for a national title? Are we content, for the moment, to simply be a part?
Do we seethe at the notion that Clemson was even among those sweating out an announcement? Are we more concerned about the future of the program—that days like Monday could become more commonplace—than elated by the selection?
Do we react passively to the news, having already mailed in the season as a failure and the pending loss in the Nashville Regional as a fitting demise for a disappointing squad?
All of these seem like possible responses to Monday’s news that Clemson’s baseball season isn’t over yet. For a team like this, it seems like the last bit of good news that may come in 2014—and for good reason.
Oregon looms large as a team much like Clemson. The Ducks have underperformed against an underwhelming schedule, falling from a national seed last season to a non-host this year. They have pitched well and fielded well but have struggled to get hits consistently throughout the season.
The Tigers will have their hands full with the Ducks, and even if they get past Oregon, Vanderbilt and its potent star-laden team loom large. It will take a herculean effort to even advance another round.
Some might say Clemson is incapable of advancing through a regional. Admittedly, on the surface, it seems like a rough challenge. Pitching depth is more necessary at this early stage of the tournament than it is later on down the road, which puts Clemson at an early disadvantage. Playing away from home is always difficult.
But think about this: There is no better way to erase some not-so-fond memories from the season than to win a regional. At this point of the journey, the rest matters very little.
Terms like “good” and “bad” become less important. Accomplishment is now the measure of a team’s worth. Surviving and advancing is the only way to calculate progress.
All the stains of a season rife with inopportune losses and a lack of general achievement can be washed away with a few well-timed victories in Nashville this weekend. History doesn’t measure “good” or “bad”. Instead, it remembers titles and designations, banners and trophies.
This is the primary reason to celebrate a by-the-skin-of-their-teeth inclusion in the NCAA Tournament for the Clemson baseball team. The postseason represents a second chance for the Tigers to write the script they envisioned at the beginning of the season.
Even if no one expects it to happen.