Virginia wrapped up the final spot in the NCAA Super Regional Round with a walk-off home run in the 10th inning Tuesday morning to win the Columbia (S.C.) Regional.
It was a fitting end to the regional part of the tournament, which has seen it fair share of dramatics thus far.
The Cavaliers join Notre Dame and NC State as the three ACC schools that advanced to a Super Regional. The Irish will play at Mississippi State, while the Wolfpack plays at Arkansas. Virginia will play Dallas Baptist later this week.
At Clemson, the Tigers are a long way from a Super Regional at the moment. In fact, they have not been to one since former head coach Jack Leggett’s 2010 team made it all the way to the College World Series.
This past year was a disappointing one for Monte Lee’s sixth Clemson team. The Tigers went 25-27, the program’s first losing season since 1957, while missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008.
It did not help that the Tigers were 3-9 in one-run games and lost several other close games throughout the season. Pitching also was an issue, especially down the stretch as they lost nine of their last 12 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 at the ACC Tournament on May 25. “So, I am going to look at myself first… What is it I have to do a better job of and we as a coaching staff have to do a better job to prepare our guys for next year? Some of these players in the program will be back and we need to make sure we put them in position to play in the postseason.”
When asked to put his analyst’s hat on, Leggett admitted it was a tough question when this writer asked him if he saw anything that could be fixed to help get things turned around at Clemson.
“I think they had a little trouble finding their pitching roles, who their starting pitchers were and then who their best relievers were,” Leggett said. “Then they kind of changed up a little bit, so it was difficult to find some consistency there.
“They could put more balls in play… I would say that about any team that struck out a lot and I think if you put more balls in play, more good things are going to happen. Like in football or basketball, the more pressure you put on the defense, the more pressure you put on the other team, the more mistakes they are going to make, which gives you more opportunities to score and have runners on base. So, I think some things there could have gone a little bit better for them.”
Leggett also said running the bases or being more aggressive on the base pads was another avenue that can help put pressure on the defense and give a team more opportunities to score.
“The things that I saw, just analytically, is that the team has to play together. Everybody has to play together in order to be successful in any sport,” Leggett said. “That was one of the things where they struggled a little bit and they were a little inconsistent at times through the course of the year, and every team goes through those times.
“No one shows up in Omaha 60-6. That just does not happen. There are going to be 15, 18, 19 losses through the course of a season, maybe? Even on a good year, most of the time. But you do not want to have those times where you lose five or six in a row or seven in a row and it happens two or three times during the year.”
This past season, the Tigers had losing streaks of six, seven and five games.
“Consistency was just one thing that I thought, maybe, if they put together a little bit more consistent times out there, things would have gone better for them,” Leggett said.
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