Clemson coach Monte Lee recaps win against Illinois
The Clemson baseball season was in a downward spiral and there were no signs that the Tigers were going to snap out of it with four games remaining in the regular season.
Clemson had dropped 15 of its previous 21 games entering a midweek contest at Coastal Carolina, and the Tigers had not won three games in a row since March heading into the in-state matchup with Coastal Carolina on May 14.
But Clemson’s offense exploded for 14 runs in the lopsided victory over the Chanticleers, and it hasn’t slowed down since. Clemson won three of its final four games to close the regular season and improved to 5-2 in its past seven games after topping Illinois 8-4 in its NCAA tournament opener on Friday.
The Tigers averaged nearly eight runs per game over the seven-game stretch en route to Saturday night’s NCAA matchup with Ole Miss.
“Sometimes adversity can be a good thing if you allow it to be,” Clemson coach Monte Lee said. “And I think just the ups and downs and all that we’ve been through, if you embrace it and allow it to make you better, I think it will help you, and it’s helped us.”
The last two offensive performances were two of Clemson’s best of the season.
The Tigers roughed up Louisville ace and ACC Pitcher of the Year Reid Detmers for five runs in four innings in the ACC tournament before scoring four runs in four innings against Illinois starter Ty Weber on Friday.
Illinois has one of the best bullpens in the country, and the Tigers scored four runs off of it as well.
“If you look at our last two ballgames we played Louisville, we played Illinois. Two really good clubs when it comes to pitching and defense, and we’ve been able to score runs and pitch really well against those two clubs,” Lee said. “We’re certainly playing really good baseball right now.”
It all starts at the top of the order for Clemson. Leadoff hitter Michael Green missed a large chunk of the season due to an injury but is hitting .404 since returning to the lineup in early May. He has gotten a hit in all 12 games he has played in after missing nearly two months of the season.
“Michael Green’s been on fire,” Lee said. “He’s been such a huge addition to our team here in the last 10 or 12 games that he’s been back in our lineup. He’s been swinging the bat extremely well.”
Shortstop Logan Davidson hits second and leads the Tigers with a .421 on-base percentage. Three-hole hitter Grayson Byrd has been driving Davidson in and leads Clemson with a .321 batting average, 16 home runs and 59 RBIs.
Byrd is hitting .382 with 12 home runs and 29 RBIs over the past 20 games.
“Byrd’s been, in my opinion, the best hitter in the country over the last 15 games,” Lee said.
And cleanup hitter Kyle Wilkie has also gotten into a groove late in the season, raising his average from .258 near the end of April to .305 now.
Wilkie is hitting .385 since April 24 and has 11 multi-hit games in Clemson’s last 18 games.
When you add it all together you have a top of the order that is producing at an unbelievable rate for the Tigers.
“When you’re getting that type of production from 1-4 in your lineup you’re going to score runs,” Lee said.