Tigers know winning regional game is not the expectation at Clemson
OXFORD, Miss. — Clemson has been here before. The question is can the Tigers finally get past it?
For a fourth straight season, Clemson will try to hold off elimination in an NCAA Regional following Saturday’s 6-1 loss to host Ole Miss. The Tigers, the No. 3 seed, will face No. 4 Jacksonville State in an elimination game today at Swayze Field in Game 5 of the Oxford (Miss.) Regional.
The Tigers (35-25) are 4-3 under head coach Monte Lee when facing elimination in the NCAA Tournament.
“We need to understand that the plan is to be here for a while,” Lee said following Saturday’s loss to Ole Miss. “That’s the goal. But we gotta worry about Game One first.”
Clemson is 3-0 under Lee in its first elimination game of an NCAA Regional. The Tigers eliminated Western Carolina in the 2016 Clemson Regional and then won back-to-back elimination games against UNC Greensboro and Vanderbilt in the 2017 Clemson Regional. Last year, Clemson rallied to beat St. John’s 9-8 to stay alive a game longer in the 2018 Clemson Regional.
But staving off elimination is not the goal at Clemson. It’s about moving on and advancing.
Prior to 2011, winning a regional and playing in Super Regionals and the College World Series seemed to be a birth right for Clemson fans.
From 1999-2010, Clemson advanced to the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament nine times. Of those nine Super Regional appearances, four times the Tigers advanced to the CWS in Omaha.
But since 2011, Clemson has not moved past the regional round of the NCAA Tournament.
“If you’re doubting if we want it bad enough, you’re talking to the wrong team,” first baseman Grayson Byrd said. “We want it bad, obviously. That’s what we came to Clemson to do. Our backs are against the wall a little bit, but we’ll get ready to go (today).”
If the Tigers can stave off elimination against Jacksonville State in Game 5 today (3 p.m.), it will have to turn around and play host Ole Miss for a second time at 9 p.m., tonight. Clemson must then beat the Rebels to force a winner-take-all game on Monday night.
“We know what’s at stake. Our season is on the line,” Lee said. “We gotta be mentally prepared to be here for quite a while (today) and compete every inning. Some guys on the mound are gonna have to step up.
“Offensively, I think we’ve gotta be a little bit better. We chased out of the zone quite a bit tonight. We need to be a little more disciplined at the plate.”