Clemson head coach: 'It's only game one'
Off to its best start since the 2002 season with a 16-1 record, the second-ranked Clemson baseball team entered Friday night’s series opener against No. 10 NC State averaging 6.9 runs per game with a strong .980 fielding percentage.
In game one against the Wolfpack, the Tigers were shut out and committed five errors during a 4-0 loss at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
Clemson (16-2) managed just two hits in 18 at-bats with runners on base while going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-7 with two outs.
“We played sloppy tonight. It was uncharacteristic of us,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “I think we had 11 free 90s total between walks and errors. So, we didn’t play our best baseball game, but it was still a four-run game. It was a three-run game going into the eighth.
“We had a couple opportunities (at the plate), not very many. We had multiple runners on base in a couple different innings, and they did a good job of making pitches and making defensive plays. We hit into a couple double plays. But overall, they were the better team tonight. They played a better baseball game than we did. They deserved to win.”
Two weekends ago, Clemson dropped the first game of the series against rival South Carolina before bouncing back to win the next two games.
That is just one example, and Lee’s message to his team after Friday’s loss was that it can come back to win this series, too, with the right competitive spirit and mentality.
“We have lost on Friday nights plenty of times and won the series,” Lee said. “So, that was the first message was just making sure that they understand that it’s only game one. Game two is critical because it gets us right back in the series with the opportunity to win the series in game three.
“But more than anything, we’ve got to compete. We’ve got to compete better tomorrow. We have to dig deep, and everybody in that dugout and on the field has got to compete as hard as they can because this is a good club we’re playing. If we’re going to get back in this series, it’s going to take all of us.”
Righty Michael Bienlien (2-0) earned the win for NC State, allowing no runs and just five hits in five innings. Three Wolfpack relievers combined to pitch the final four innings and keep the Tigers off the scoreboard.
Tiger starter Jacob Hennessy (1-1) suffered the loss, as he gave up six hits, three runs and three walks with seven strikeouts in 5.1 innings pitched.
With the loss to NC State (16-3) in the books, Lee hopes to see his team learn from it, wipe the slate clean and put its best foot forward in game two of the series, which is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Righthanded pitcher Brooks Crawford will get the start for Clemson, while lefthander Brian Brown will take the mound for the Wolfpack.
“The big message for our guys was just learn from our mistakes,” Lee said. “We talked about the mistakes that we made — learn from our mistakes and understand that we’re going to have to make a complete 180 adjustment going from Bienlien to Brown, who’s starting tomorrow.
“It’s a completely different look of a pitcher; a guy that changes speeds. He’s similar to a Hennessy-type lefthander, so we’ve got a pretty big challenge trying to make that adjustment.”