Monday Morning Quarterback
Monte Lee wanted to get his message out there as fast as he could.
Sunday night’s loss to Vanderbilt in the Clemson Regional Finals was not indicative of the kind of season Clemson had.
There was no doubt he and his ballplayers were embarrassed about their performance in a 19-6 loss at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, but he wanted to make sure this one game is not what people remember when they think back to the 2018 baseball season.
Lee also does not want people to hold this team responsible for the program’s lack of success in NCAA Regionals, the third consecutive year under Lee—all at home—it failed to advance to a super regional and the eighth straight overall.
“This is a tough loss,” Lee said afterward. “They don’t get any tougher. Anytime you lose a game to end the year in your home regional and to lose in the fashion that we did and to get beat the way we did, it is extremely tough.
“With that being said, our team won forty-seven games this year. That was the most by any Clemson team since 2006. That is twelve years. That is twelve years. So make sure that our guys get the credit they deserve for a great year.”
It was a great year for the Tigers. The 47-16 record was the best season in terms of wins and losses since 2006. They went 22-8 in ACC play, the best season in conference plays since 2006. They won the program’s first ACC Regular Season Championship since 2006 and went an impressive 13-2 in ACC road games.
Clemson also won the ACC’s Atlantic Division title for the first time since 2010, after being picked to finish third in the preseason poll. It also had an amazing 16-6 record in one-run games, and the 16 one-run wins was a school record for one season.
“Sixteen games, we won by one run. That says a lot about our guys,” Lee said. “Yes tonight was tough for all of us, but give our guys the credit that they are due.”
However, you can’t point out one thing without pointing out the other one, too. The Clemson baseball program again failed to make it out of a regional. It has not won a regional since 2010, eight straight times it has now failed to advance to the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament.
Though Lee is only responsible for three of those losses, he understands the expectations at Clemson. Just getting to an NCAA Regional is not acceptable, especially when they have hosted three straight and failed each time.
“It’s the team that plays the best that wins the regional,” Lee said. “We have come up short the last three years. I have been fortunate enough (at the College of Charleston) to coach a team that won a regional and we were the team that played the best.
“I can’t say we were the best team in the regional, but we were the team that played the best. This year was no exception to the last two years before that.”
Prior to the current streak, Clemson was one of the best tournament teams in college baseball. It won 10 straight home NCAA Tournament rounds from 2000-2010, all under former head coach Jack Leggett.
Clemson was 32-7 in home regional games under Leggett and advanced to nine of 12 Super Regionals from 1999-2010. During that time the Tigers advanced to the College World Series four times.
Overall at home the Tigers were 40-9 under Leggett in the NCAA Tournament and advanced 12 times in 15 tournament home regionals.
Now, those days are a distant memory at Clemson and with each regional loss they fade further and further back into our memories.
“As far as our lack of winning our regionals here, the bottom line we were not the team that played the best and Vanderbilt was,” Lee said. “Vanderbilt deserves the credit. They were the better team. I don’t know what else I could say about it. It is not like we prepared any differently. It is not like we tried to send any sort of different messages.
“The bottom line was we just got beat and we got beat handedly… It did not work out for us.”
But as the past shows, that’s not acceptable at Clemson. If it was, Monte Lee would not be the head coach at Clemson.