Just a few weeks ago following an 11-0 win over Wake Forest, Clemson’s baseball team seemed like it was destined for a special season. The No. 7 Tigers were 33-7 overall and 16-4 in the ACC. They seemed like a sure lock to not only host a regional, but also land as a national seed for a second straight year.
How fast things can change.
Since that win over Wake Forest on April 22, Clemson has lost seven straight ACC games and thanks to Sunday’s 6-4 loss at the hands of No. 2 Louisville, the Tigers were swept in back-to-back conference series for the first time since the 2008 season.
Overall, Clemson is just 4-8 in its last 12 games and is trying to figure out how it can turn things around as it heads into the last week of the regular season.
“We are just trying to stay positive,” said Clemson centerfielder Chase Pinder after Sunday’s game. “We still have four more games left to finish strong and head into ACC Tournament play on a hot streak, so hopefully that will happen.”
To do that the Tigers (37-15, 16-11 ACC) will have to beat defending national champion Coastal Carolina on Tuesday in the regular-season finale at Doug Kingsmore Stadium and then travel to Raleigh, N.C. and beat an NC State squad that has won 11 of its last 12 games, including a three-game sweep of Pittsburgh this weekend.
To win those final four games, and to make a run in the ACC Tournament, Clemson has to do a better job of picking up runners when they are in scoring position. On Sunday, the Tigers were 1-for-10 in such situations, and this comes after leaving 12 runners stranded in scoring possession in Friday night’s loss to the Cardinals.
“When we get those bases loaded, we are just one big hit away, I’m telling you,” said Pinder, who brought in Reed Rohlman from second base with his two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning on Sunday. “We are one hit away … One big hit away and I think that will open up some things and let us relax and play.”
By being swept, coupled with Wake Forest’s win over Florida State on Sunday, Clemson slipped to No. 3 in the ACC Atlantic Division standing and to No. 4 overall in the ACC. Virginia is tied with Clemson for fourth, but right now the Tigers own the tiebreaker due to their series win over the Cavaliers back in March.
However, with NC Sate two games back, the Tigers could slip to sixth place if they repeat what they have done against North Carolina and Louisville.
Last year, Clemson was in a much dire situation as it needed to win its final ACC series at Notre Dame to just make the ACC Tournament. The Tigers eventually swept the Irish and finished fourth in the ACC before rolling through the tournament with five straight wins to win the program’s first ACC Championship in 10 years.
And though Clemson already knows it will play in the ACC Tournament beginning on May 23 and will subsequently be in the NCAA Tournament Field, the Tigers are still hoping to host a regional, but closing out the regular season with four ACC series losses in its last five will not look on their résumé.
“Last year, we had our backs against the wall a little and had to finish strong,” Pinder said. “I guess making that statement and going 4-0 and then winning the ACC last year, it can catapult you right to the top. So I think winning these next couple of games will be big and having a good showing there can help cure that.”