CHARLOTTE – For the second straight season, the ACC Tournament may be the end of the road for Clemson’s baseball season.
It might also mark the end of a tenure.
Clemson coach Monte Lee watched his team labor through another lopsided conference tournament loss to Virginia Tech late Thursday night at Truist Field. The Tigers, who needed to win seven of their final nine ACC games during the regular season just to grab the 12th and final spot in the league tournament, will now await their regional fate, which appears dire after getting outscored a combined 27-8 in two tournament losses that dropped Clemson to five games below .500 against ACC competition this season.
Lee’s future at the helm of the program is also in question. After 11 straight regional appearances, the Tigers are now in danger of missing out on back-to-back NCAA Tournaments for the first time since failing to qualify five straight times from 1982-86.
If that does indeed happen – the NCAA Tournament field will be announced Monday – Lee said he expects to be back in 2023 but acknowledged that call will be made by Clemson athletic director Graham Neff.
“It’s going to be up to the administration,” Lee said following Thursday’s game. “I’m sure I will meet with the administration at some point and hear what they have to say. I expect to be back, but ultimately that’s not my decision. We’ll certainly cross that bridge when we get there.”
This season comes on the heels of the Tigers’ first losing season in six decades. Lee has a 242-136 record as Clemson’s coach, including a 102-86 mark in the ACC during the regular season. The Tigers made the NCAA Tournament in each of Lee’s first four seasons at the helm (a tournament wasn’t held in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic) but hasn’t advanced beyond that round under his watch.
While Lee said he’s still holding out hope of an NCAA invite for his team, some of his comments Thursday night were laced with a hint of finality for a season if not more.
“It’s tough to end the season, and it’s really hard to put into words the way the end of the season feels,” Lee said. “More than half my life, I’ve been in this situation where your heart’s broken at the end of the season.
“It’s more of a gratitude thing for me. I’m grateful for these young men. I’m also disappointed that as the head coach, I didn’t do a good enough job of putting us in a better position. I’m 100% accountable for the way our team plays. Obviously it falls on me.”
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