"We eat pressure like candy." Tigers primed for key ACC series at FSU

by - Senior Writer -
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Clemson's baseball team has won 29 games this season

Coming from behind to win, winning in extra innings and coming through in the clutch have all been hallmarks of Monte Lee’s Clemson teams the past two seasons, and Tuesday night was no exception.

The No. 4 Tigers fell behind Charleston Southern 5-1, tied the score in the bottom of the ninth and faced a bases loaded, one out situation in the bottom of the 11th as redshirt graduate Andrew Cox stepped to the plate.

Cox drilled a single into right field, Reed Rohlman flew home from third base and the walk-off celebration began.

Pressure? Not for these cardiac cats, who feast on pressure like it’s candy.

“As a coach, I don’t know if you could be more proud of the team. I don’t know what else I could say than that. What else could I ask for?” Lee said after the game. “We eat pressure like candy. “We’re going to embrace pressure and enjoy those moments. It’s baseball. You’ve just got to compete.”

The Tigers have rocketed out to a 29-5 record that includes a 13-2 mark in conference play. They are tied for the most wins in the nation at 29 and their 13 conference wins are tops in the ACC. The competition level takes a step forward this weekend when they travel to Florida St. for a three-game set that starts Saturday, but Lee said his team will keep their calm approach.

“The worst thing that a baseball team or a group of young men can do is when they’re behind feel the pressure, try to do too much,” Lee said. “The heart rate is higher when you’re down. You feel that anxiety and take a step back. Hopefully, they listen to my message, which is to embrace the pressure.”

The series will be played Saturday through Monday. The Seminoles are playing for their postseason lives, even with 21 regular season games to play. FSU has a 21-14 record overall and a 7-8 record in ACC play through 35 games this season, and have fallen out of the Top-25 for the first time since the 2009 season.

The Seminoles have won at least 40 games in each one of head coach Mike Martin’s 38 years in Tallahassee but will have to close strong to get close to that mark. It starts Saturday at Dick Howser Stadium.

“There’s going to be a lot of people there rooting against us,” Cox said. “It’s one of the best atmospheres in college baseball to play in and compete in. We’ll go down there and compete just like we do at home and try to find a way to win a couple games.”

Clemson will roll out usual Friday starter Charlie Barnes for the opening game on Saturday. Barnes’ 67 strikeouts are a team best, and he is 4-2 in his eight starts. Sunday, the Tigers will throw righty Alex Eubanks (5-2, 2.92) and Monday will be lefty Pat Krall (6-0, 3.09).

“Florida State’s a very talented team. They were preseason No. 1 in a couple different polls so obviously there are very high expectations at Florida State. There always has been, there always will be,” Lee said. “Florida St. is one of the most well-coached teams in the country. To beat Florida St. you have to execute pitches and you have to pound strikes. That is one of the ballparks in the country where they pack it out, and there will be a lot of people rooting against the Tigers this weekend.

“It will be a pressure-packed, high-intensity series. There will be a high sense of urgency on their part. They know how critical this series is for them and they will be ready for us. They will compete and try to win the series at home. There are a lot of things stacked against us, but I would never bet against my club. The ‘Noles have a great pitching staff and good hitters. It’s a tough challenge for us on the road, but I know our guys will be ready to compete come Saturday.”

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