Two days before the Clemson Regional, the Tigers spent an afternoon playing golf and riding jet skis and tubes on the lake.
For coach Monte Lee, it was a chance to build chemistry at a time when the Tigers need it.
“More than anything, it’s what you do as a family, right? We’re in this thing together,” Lee said. “We work together and we play together.”
For the players, it was about keeping things loose. They like to say pressure is fun, but the pressure the Tigers have been under during the final stretch of the regular season was anything but that.
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Clemson (39-19) lost 11 of its final 12 ACC games, including two in last week’s ACC tournament, and limps into Friday’s 7 p.m. home regional game against UNC Greensboro (35-22) 5-11 in their last 16 contests.
“The big message for us is it’s a new season,” Lee said. “We had a lot of highs and we had lows. We’re going to draw on those experiences obviously as individuals and as a team.”
As those losses piled up, Clemson knew it was in a perilous position when it came to hosting, but the NCAA tournament committee still handed the Tigers one of 16 home spots.
Now, the Tigers are glad to hit the reset button, and they don’t feel like they are far from righting the ship.
“I think if we bust a ball in the gap or make a pitch or make a play, this tough stretch that we went through flips,” first baseman Andrew Cox said. “We’re literally that close, but in this game, that close is the difference in what we did and what could’ve been.”
The Tigers, though, are done worrying about the late skid and wondering what it might cost them. They're at home, the pressure is off and now they just want to go play.
“This is the easiest way to reset it. There’s nothing we can go back and change," Cox said. "Moving forward, everybody’s got a clean slate. Everybody on this field is 0-0.”
Clemson hasn’t gotten out of a regional since 2010, and to do so this weekend, they’ll have to also outlast second-seeded Vanderbilt (33-22-1) and third-seeded St. John’s (42-11), who play Friday at noon. The last team standing in a double-elimination format at Doug Kingsmore Stadium is matched up with the winner of the Corvallis Regional, which top national seed Oregon State is expected to claim.
To move into the winner’s bracket Saturday, the Tigers will rely on right-handed pitcher Alex Eubanks (6-5, 4.12 ERA), who’s been their second starter most of the season.
Clemson will hold ace Charlie Barnes (5-4, 2.73) for a potential showdown with star Vanderbilt pitcher Kyle Wright (4-5, 2.91), who’s considered to be one of the top prospects in the upcoming MLB draft.
The Tigers refuse to look that far ahead. UNC Greensboro is coming off a Southern Conference title.
“I think you’ve got to think about winning one game at a time," Seth Beer said. "We can’t think about just straight Vanderbilt because any of these team can sneak up on you.”
Who: UNC Greensboro (35-22) vs. Clemson (39-19)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Doug Kingsmore Stadium, Clemson
Watch: ESPN3/Watch ESPN app (Online only)