CHARLOTTTE — The expectations for Clemson Baseball begin and end with one word … Omaha. That is why it is stitched on the back of its hats.
Omaha is the home of the College World Series, and it is a place the Tigers have visited 12 times in the past, one of the highest marks in college baseball. However, Clemson has failed to reach that expectation in each of the last 10 seasons, mostly falling short in an NCAA Regional.
Those expectations will not be reached again in 2021. However, this time, the Tigers will not even make it to a regional.
Tuesday’s 15-10 loss to Louisville in the ACC Tournament at Truist Field in Charlotte drove the final nail in the Tigers’ postseason coffin. Though the Tigers still have to play Georgia Tech in Pool B of the ACC Championship on Wednesday, it will mean nothing in the grand scheme of things.
Clemson’s only hope of advancing to a 12th straight NCAA Tournament ended with its loss to the Cardinals. The Tigers were eliminated from the ACC Tournament, a tournament it had to win to get into the NCAA Tournament.
“It seems really weird. This is my thirteenth year as a head coach and my expectations as a head coach is to always be in the postseason,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said after the game. “We have had a nice run here at Clemson of being in the postseason. So, I don’t know if weird is the right word or not. I think I am just trying to come to grips with it quiet honestly. Just the reality of it is really, really hard right now.”
Clemson (24-27) last missed an NCAA Tournament in 2008. The Tigers were just one of four programs in college baseball to make at least 11 straight tournament appearances.
Since 1987, the program has missed the NCAAs just once in the previous 33 seasons.
But this year, the Tigers were 3-9 in one-run games and lost several other close games throughout the season. Pitching also was an issue for the Tigers, especially down the stretch as they have now lost nine of their last 11 games.
“I have to look at myself first. You guys know this, I am going to be very accountable for everything in this program,” Lee said. “So, I am going to look at myself first, and look, as we get through tomorrow, what I have to do a better job of and we as a coaching staff have to do a better job of to prepare our guys for next year for some of these players in the program that will be back and make sure we put them in position to play in the postseason to be successful.”
Lee said he failed his team this year and that is the bottom line. Designated hitter Caden Grice, who hit two home runs on Tuesday, does not see it that way.
“He teaches us to take responsibility for ourselves,” the freshman said. “I think that is a good example of him setting a good example for us and the team. He has done a great job, but it comes down to us performing on the field. So, I don’t think it has anything to do with that.”
Tuesday’s loss to Louisville was a perfect example of how the 2021 season has gone for the Tigers. They got off to a good start and scored eight runs in the first four innings. However, errors and mistakes on the mound allowed he Cardinals to come back and eventually take control of the game by the middle innings.
“I failed our team. I failed our club. I did not do a good enough job of putting them in position to be successful and getting into the postseason,” Lee said. “So, that is the feeling right now. I feel like I failed our club and I know what the expectations are. I have not lived up to that standard and that expectation this year.
“I am going to do everything I can to fix these issues and I just need to do a better job as the head coach and the leader of the program.”
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