The No.8 seed Tigers suffered a tough 7-5 loss in 11 innings to No.12 seed Boston College on Tuesday in their opening ACC Tournament game. The Tigers rallied with 2 outs in the 8th to score 3 runs and tie the game, but they were once again done in with a costly error--this time by freshman Bryar Hawkins, who has played very little at 1st base this season but moved there in the late innings due to a few pinch hitters inserted by Monte Lee. Pitching and errors have been the bugaboo for this team ever since they peaked at No.13 in the rankings mid-season and spiraled to 8th in the ACC standings. The Tigers had won 3 straight one-run games, one of them in extra innings, over the past week and a half after going 3-10 in one-run and extra-inning games previously, but they were unable to continue that trend in Durham, and the loss effectively eliminated them from the tournament due to the pool-style format. Last seed Boston College went on to shock No.1 seed Louisville 5-1 on Wednesday and advance out of the pool, setting up an inconsequential game between the Tigers and Cards.
Thursday morning's game may be inconsequential from an ACC Tournament standpoint, but there is still much riding on the game for both teams. The Tigers currently have a No.42 ranking in the RPI, just behind Duke, which finished the regular season tied with the Tigers at 15-15 in ACC play but swept the Tigers in Clemson. There is a chance the Tigers could make the NCAA Tournament even with a loss to Louisville, but that would make Selection Monday pretty stressful for them, finishing the season with 3 straight losses and an overall losing record in the ACC. The Tigers have several good wins, including a sweep of UNC, 2 against Louisville and Georgia Tech on the road. They also have some impressive losses, losing in 11 innings to a top-10 Louisville team and 20 innings on the road against a top-5 UGA team. However, the aforementioned wins were early in the season, and the Tigers have trended the wrong way over the past 6 weeks. There are only 6 ACC teams ahead of the Tigers in the latest RPI, and the Tigers are tied for 5th in Power Five HR's, so both of those bode well for their resume with the Selection Committee.
Meanwhile, Louisville has a top-8 national seed at stake, so they have plenty to play for as well. In my opinion, if the Tigers beat Louisville on Thursday, they will make the NCAA Tournament by the skin of their teeth and wind up a 3 seed somewhere--perhaps in Athens or even Vandy for a 3rd consecutive NCAA Regional date with Tim Corbin's Commodores. If the Tigers lose to Louisville, it will be 50/50 proposition, maybe worse, and their fate will lie in the hands with the selection committee. Monte Lee has had the Tigers in contention for a top-8 national seed at this point in the season in each of his first 3 years at Clemson, but now he finds himself fighting for his post-season life. The Tigers will have their work cut out for them on Thursday against Reid Detmers, who was named ACC Pitcher of the Year after leading the conference in wins, ERA and strike outs. The Tigers managed to score 5 runs in 6 innings against Detmers, however, in their 5-1 win over the Cardinals in the first game of their regular season weekend series. Detmers struck out 10 that night in his 6 innings pitched.