Tigers cannot afford to lose to Louisville if they hope to make NCAA Tournament
DURHAM, N.C. — Prior to Clemson’s game at Coastal Carolina last week, Clemson head coach Monte Lee brought his team together and explained to them how the final four games of the regular season were almost like postseasons games. They needed to approach the final week like it was their last.
The Tigers responded by winning three of those four games, putting themselves in position to earn an 11th consecutive NCAA Tournament bid as long as they played well in this week’s ACC Baseball Championships.
Thanks to Tuesday’s 7-5 loss in 11 innings to No. 12 seed Boston College in the first game of the tournament, the No. 8 Tigers now find themselves in an elimination kind of mode, presumably needing a win over top-seed Louisville on Thursday to earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
“This is a big one and where we are all sitting right now, I think, we all know it is a big one,” Lee said. “Today’s game was a big one. Right now, they are all big.”
How big was Tuesday’s loss to Boston College?
Clemson’s RPI fell from No. 36 to No. 43, clearly putting the Tigers on the proverbial NCAA bubble.
Clemson (33-24) is battling ACC teams Florida State, Wake Forest, Duke and Virginia for an NCAA Tournament bid.
“These guys are competing as hard as they can. I can’t ask for anything more out of them,” Lee said. “We emptied the tank today. We tried to use a number of guys out of the bullpen and I think we swung the bats well. We hit some balls well that got caught.
“The bottom line is we needed to be a little better earlier in the game. We had some runners on base earlier in the game and we were unable to come up with some big hits.”
The Tigers will need to pick up those hits against the Cardinals, a team that leads the ACC in hitting and went 21-9 in conference play.
“I don’t think our guys need to do anything different,” Lee said. “As far as the magnitude of the game, they are all big at Clemson. They are all big every year and there is no game that is bigger than the other. They are all big.
“I think our guys know that. They know right now what is at stake and what we are trying to fight for. Today, we got behind. We found a way to tie it and we went to extra innings. The bottom line is they came up with a couple of big at-bats. We did not make a play that we would have liked to have made, but I don’t think there is anything differently we could have done different there. It just happened. It is baseball. Things just did not go our way.”
Clemson fell to 1-4 in extra-inning games this year and have lost a magnitude of close games that have placed it in this position.
“Hopefully, we can get our spirits back in order. I know this is a tough loss for our guys. This is going to be a tough ride back to our hotel,” Lee said. “But we will talk to the guys about trying to keep their spirits up and moving on from it and just being ready to play on Thursday.”
The Tigers will play Louisville at 11 a.m., on Thursday from Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, North Carolina.