Heading into the season, Monte Lee was optimistic about his team’s ability to produce offensively.
Now, Clemson’s coach is searching for answers at the plate after the second-ranked Tigers scored just five runs during a three-game sweep at the hands of No. 10 NC State this weekend.
“It’s obviously tough,” Lee said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow right now losing three games at home to NC State. But they were the better team and they deserve it, and we just have to keep competing, keep working, stay positive, and hopefully we can find a way to get things turned in the right direction this upcoming week.”
Offensively in the series, Clemson went 7-for-45 (.156) with runners on base and 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position. The Tigers left 23 men on base and struck out 26 times.
Clemson plated four runs in the first four innings on Sunday afternoon thanks to a home run from Logan Davidson, RBI doubles from Grayson Byrd and Kyle Wilkie, and a sacrifice fly from Wilkie. But only two Tigers managed to reach base in the final five innings — Seth Beer via a walk in the eighth and Byrd via a single in the ninth.
NC State relievers Nolan Clenney, Evan Justice, Kent Klyman and Joe O’Donnell did not allow an earned run in a combined eight innings pitched.
“We scored early, but we have to find a way to be more productive in the back half of the game,” Lee said. “Once they went to the bullpen and mixed and matched lefties and righties out of the pen, we had a hard time scoring.
“So, the bottom line is we have to get some hitters going. We’re working as hard as we can at it. We’re trying some different things, but the bottom line is we have to square some balls up, and we definitely have to square some balls up with runners on base. We showed flashes of it today, but just not enough against a good NC State team.”
Though the Tigers (16-4, 3-3 ACC) are scuffling after getting off to their best start since 2002, Lee isn’t worried about his team’s ability to regain confidence going into a tough road stretch.
“I don’t worry about our confidence,” Lee said. “I don’t. Not at all. In fact, the tougher it is, the better it is. That’s the way it should be. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you when you lose two games in a row. I’m not going to feel sorry for them, I’m not going to feel sorry for myself.
“So, that was the message after the game. The tougher it is, the better we like it. We need to be challenged.”
The Tigers will certainly be challenged away from home over the next five games. Clemson will play at Coastal Carolina, the 2016 National Champions, on Tuesday before traveling to Louisville for a three-game series this coming weekend. Clemson will then face Furman at Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C., on Tuesday, March 27.
Lee believes the upcoming road trips will serve as an opportunity for the Tigers to regroup and get closer as a team following a tough series.
“It could be good to get on the road and spend some time together,” Lee said. “I think sometimes when you get on those long bus rides, being able to spend some time together and eating at restaurants together away from just our normal environment could be a good thing for them from a chemistry standpoint.”