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.
Tuesday's post-game press conference video and transcript are below.
MONTE LEE: First, I'd like to give Boston College credit for competing as hard as they did. They put together a really good game plan against us today. They swung the bats well. I thought they battled and competed in two-strike counts. And Morissette, it was unbelievable for him today, 2-hole hitter, swung the bat exceptionally well. But they've got good balance in their lineup.
And Pelio, I've been saying it since we saw them earlier in the year, Pelio is one of the best starters in our league. He's only a freshman. He's only going to get better and better. When we had runners on base against him, it's almost like he pitches better. It's the same way when we played them earlier in the year.
We were fortunate enough to find a way to tie the ball game up in the eighth. Michael Green came up with a huge hit to put together a big inning for us and tie the ball game.
And I thought our bullpen did a nice job. I thought Sam Weatherly was very good for us. Hennessy came in, got a couple of big strike outs for us. And Owen, unfortunately, just left that one pitch up and gave up the home run. And I thought Spiers did a great job.
I feel bad for Chad Fairey. The ground ball that jumped up, took a big hop, just took a tough hop on him. And that's what gave them the lead. But that's baseball. That's part of the game.
The thing that killed us again today was the long balls. I don't know how many we gave up. I think it was four if I'm not mistaken.
But you've got to give Boston College credit there. They swung the bats well against us today. I thought our guys competed as hard as they could, but it just wasn't enough. The game went extra innings and we had the last at-bat. I was hoping we could find a way to put together some good at-bats there at the end. But their guy, Joey Walsh, threw the ball really well for them in long relief and held us at bay.
Q. Logan, you rallied in the eighth inning
LOGAN DAVIDSON:For sure. Mike Green came up with that big hit. Momentum shifted to our dugout. We didn't -- we tied it up, we didn't go ahead -- but we thought the momentum going into the next inning it was our game. We just didn't really close out on it.
Q. Michael, talk about that inning? You played a big role
MICHAEL GREEN: I got up there, obviously a righty was throwing. They brought in a left-hander. Talked to Coach Lee right before that at-bat, and he just told me to stay through the ball, work the middle, and luckily he gave me a good pitch and I was able to take a good swing on it.
Q. On moving forward
LOGAN DAVIDSON: Just keeping, taking the mindset we had going into today's game. I thought we did a good job of preparation coming into this game. We did a good job competing in this game.
At the end of the day you've got to give credit to them. They swung the bat well, pitched well. They did everything the way they needed to do it. We're just going to take the same approach in the next game, just keep competing.
Q. Do you think it's a must-win now? Do you worry about that?
LOGAN DAVIDSON: I don't think that's the mindset we're taking. We're taking every game the same anyway. We want to win every game no matter if it's a must-win or not. That's the way it is. We'll take the same approach to the game that we have been taking, just play our best baseball.
Q. Coah, do you think this is a must-win?
MONTE LEE: Again, it's kind of like what Logan said. I think Thursday's game is the next game on our schedule and it's a big one. Where we're sitting right now I think we all know it's a big one.
Today's game was a big one. Right now they were all big. We went into last week and talked about the last four games with Coastal Carolina and Wake Forest that every one of them was basically a postseason-caliber type ball game for us. We needed to put together a good game plan and try to play our best baseball.
These guys are competing as hard as they can. I can't ask for any more out of them. We emptied the tank today. We used a number of guys out of the bullpen. We swung the bats well, hit balls hard. They got caught.
Bottom line, we needed to be a little better earlier in the game, and unable to come up with a big hit against Pelio, but Pelio is pretty dang good. I don't think our guys needed to try to do anything differently.
As far as the magnitude of the game, well, they're all big at Clemson. They're all big every year. There's no game that's bigger than another one. They're all big. And I think our guys know that. They know right now what's at stake and what we're trying to fight for.
And today we got behind, found a way to tie it up. Went extra innings. Bottom line, they came up with a couple big at-bats. We didn't need make a play that we would have liked to have made, but I don't think there's anything we could have done differently defensively there; it just happened. It's baseball. Things just didn't go our way.
And we got to be ready to go on Thursday. We got the day off tomorrow. We'll get a good practice in, and hopefully we can get our spirits back in order. I know it's a tough loss for our guys. It's going to be a tough ride back to the hotel. But we'll talk to the guys about trying to keep their spirits up and moving on from it and just being ready to play on Thursday.
Q. Your mind was to gamble at all, to bypass your rotation guys and pitch Travis' first start of the year. Considering where you are with the NCAA tournament?
MONTE LEE: You think it's a gamble to pitch a player on short rest that's just had surgery? So if you think that's a gamble, then I'm not willing to take that gamble. And Matt Clark has already had surgery on his elbow. And he needs as much rest and recovery in between his starts as possible. So to me that's never a gamble.
I'm not going to put a player's health in jeopardy by running him out there on four days' rest. So that's the way we looked at it. Just didn't feel like that was the right thing to do to Matt. And that doesn't mean that it's the wrong thing to do. There's some guys that recover well and can pitch on three or four days' rest. That's an individual thing.
You gotta know your pitching staff, and there's got to be a lot of communication when you're talking about those types of things. But in this case, with Matt Clark, it really wasn't an option for us.
Q. Having used eight pitchers today, how will it affect your game plan for Louisville, and also how will the results with Boston College affect your game plan as well?
MONTE LEE: Our game plan was to win today. We don't really look ahead. I learned that a long time ago. I think when you start looking ahead to the next game, you start thinking about your bullpen based on situations like that, when you're in a position to win a game, I think it's really tough to do that.
So for us we put ourselves in a position to win the game, we tied the game up in the eighth. We had a plan after Marr as far as kind of what we wanted to do and who we wanted to use. And we were going to empty the tank and try to win today and we would figure out Thursday when we got there.
We do have Clark, obviously, available for Thursday. We have Hennessy available. Holt will be available. Owen will be available. So we have a number of options. I think it's critical for us against Louisville, we need to be able to get deeper into the ball game with our starter. I don't think there's any question there. So we don't have to go to the pen as early as we had to today.
Q. Is it kind of crazy to think after the way you guys started the season that here you are sitting here maybe needing to win a game? And also for you, you've already been in a game in a tournament, how do you coach that different, first time for you?
MONTE LEE: It's certainly a learning experience for all of us. It's a learning experience for me as well as a coach. I try not to -- I really try not to share that a whole lot with the players.
I think it's my responsibility to try to put them in a position to be successful and try to be as positive as I can as we're going through tough games and tough losses.
And we certainly went through quite a few of them here in the second half of the year. But it's tough. I don't know any other way to put it. When you're dealing with what we've dealt with at times here in this second half of the season. But I got a responsibility to my players to try to put them in a position to be successful, to keep their heads up and just keep trying to fight and compete as hard as they can. And that's really all that I can try to do.
I'm pretty accountable. I feel like there's been some games here that maybe if I had done something differently maybe we would have, the outcome would have been different. I think you second-guess and question everything when you are going through tough times. But I second-guess and question everything when we're going good, too. It's part of being a coach.
It's always my fault. It's never their fault. It's the way I approach it all the time. It's my job to try to find the answers and help them and take the pressure off them. It's certainly been a learning experience.
Haven't went through this in quite a while but I've been through it before. But bottom line is I still think our team's in good position. But we've got to find a way to get ready to play the next game. And that's really what our focus has got to be right now.
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