LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For those who might think Clemson’s game against No. 10 Virginia on Friday does not matter, then go ask Clemson.
“To us it matters,” Clemson pitcher Pat Krall said prior to Wednesday’s practice at Patterson Field in Louisville, Ky. “It not only matters for us to get to 40 wins, but also for us to get back some momentum.”
It also matters because the Tigers (39-18) need the win to keep them in the conversation as a host team when the NCAA Regionals are announced on Sunday evening. Right now, Clemson is probably on the outside looking in especially after losing to Duke on Tuesday in the first day of the ACC Tournament.
Down the stretch Clemson has struggled to win games as it has lost 10 of its last 15 games, including a 1-9 mark against ACC competition.
“We can’t really worry about that,” Krall said. “Last year in the regional, we won like 8 or 9 straight going into it and we all saw how that ended. For us it is about keeping our heads up, keep playing the game and just enjoy, for some of us, the last month we have together and really just enjoy playing baseball.”
What the Tigers do have going for them are their 39 overall wins, including a 17-13 mark in the ACC, which is considered one of the best conferences in America. It also helps they hold the No. 10 spot in the latest RPI rankings.
The ACC is the top rated conference in the country and Clemson is No. 3 in the league. They also have series wins against Virginia and Wake Forest who are also in the discussions as well as a possible host school.
“I think we are team that you definitely have to look and strongly consider to give a host spot to,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “That being said, we don’t make those decisions. But I think if you look at our overall body of work … we were ranked in the top 10 for 8 or 9 weeks so the team has done a lot of really good things.
“But we obviously, going into Friday, need to play good baseball against Virginia. If we can do that and find a way to win the ball game that puts us at 40 wins as well. All of those factors matter.”
Lee says knowing what’s at stake in Friday’s game is not something that is “new news” to the team, but it isn’t something they talk about either.
“I don’t think putting that kind of pressure on our players is something that necessarily works,” he said. “But, obviously, I’m aware of it. I look at it every day. Warren Nolan.com is one of the most viewed sites on my phone. I look at the RPI every day and I understand what it takes to host and put ourselves in that position.
“I understand all of that. We just try to be as consistent as we can with our team. I think the big thing as a coach … your messages have to be consistent. The process of showing up every day and working hard with your players has to be consistent and I think if you ask our players that there is one person who definitely 100-percent has their back when they are going through tough times, it is me.”