Tigers playing for their postseason lives, Louisville playing for a national seed
DURHAM, N.C. — Grayson Byrd is not going to lie. He knows Clemson’s rich baseball history. The senior understands what is at stake today when the Tigers play their final game of the ACC Baseball Championship at 11 a.m. against No. 7 Louisville.
“I guess it kind of hangs over your head a little bit … we are in, we’re not in, whatever,” Byrd said.
Clemson desperately needs a win to keep its NCAA Baseball Tournament hopes alive. A win and the Tigers will more than likely earn an 11th straight NCAA Tournament bid. A loss and the season is probably done.
The Clemson baseball program is one of just six nationally that has made the NCAA Tournament in each of the last 10 years. The last time the Tigers did not earn a bid to the 64-team field was in 2008, the only year the program has missed the tournament since 1987.
“They all know the expectations of the program. The history of the program. They are well aware of it,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “They can see it all over the walls at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. They see it every day when they come into the stadium.
“They know the expectations and the proud history of this program and they all respect it very much. They are well aware of it.”
Though the Tigers (33-24) know what’s at stake from an historical standpoint, Lee says they can’t focus on it. Their goal today at Durham Bulls Athletic Park is to focus on winning the game and nothing else.
“I think the guys know the history of the program. I think they know the expectations of the program,” he said. “Trying to tell guys those types of things, I don’t know if I can say it is extremely beneficial to them right now. The big key is we need to find a way to play our best baseball and win a baseball game.”
The bad news is Clemson, the No.8 seed in the ACC Championships, is not the only team with something to play for this morning. Louisville more than likely needs to win to secure a national seed.
The Cardinals (43-14) came into the ACC Championship as the No. 1 seed but were upset by No. 12 seed Boston College on Wednesday, which eliminated them from contention in the tournament as well. Today’s game is their last opportunity to show the selection committee they deserve to be a national seed.
“Clemson’s got a lot of pride in their program. I tell our guys this. I do tell them everybody is playing for something at this time of the year. Everybody is playing for something like the last three weeks of the season,” McDonnell said. “So, don’t ever act like what we’re playing for is more important than what someone else is playing for. It might be something different. But it’s not more important. It’s just everyone’s playing for something, a little bit different, but with the ultimate goal of getting in the postseason and playing well in the postseason.
“So, I’d like to think you’re going to see two teams come out and fight (today), play hard and may the better team who plays better win and then we’ll both get ready for the postseason.”