Big Game: Cox says Cavaliers present an opportunity for Tigers to get better

by - Senior Writer -
Cox rounds third after his homer Tuesday
Cox rounds third after his homer Tuesday

LOUISVILLE, KY – Clemson’s ACC Baseball Championship game against Virginia on Friday will be considered meaningless by many because it’s Clemson’s last game in the tournament and the Tigers have no chance to advance to Saturday’s semifinal round.

First baseman Andrew Cox doesn’t believe that way, however, and says Friday’s 11 a.m. game at Louisville Slugger Field is another chance for the Tigers to find answers to all of the questions that have plagued the team during a late-season slide that includes losses in 10 of the last 11 ACC contests.

Duke scored three runs in the decisive eighth inning Tuesday, defeating Clemson 6-3 during the first day of pool play at the ACC Championship at Louisville Slugger Stadium.

With just three teams per pod, Tuesday’s loss makes the Friday game meaningless in terms of the ACC, but the Tigers are still fighting for a host spot in the NCAA Tournament, and Cox says Clemson has to use the game as a chance to get better.

“Just keep playing. You know, I said it after the game on Friday at NC State, this ain't going to be easy, nobody is going to feel sorry for us,” Cox said. “It's baseball. Just got to keep playing, got to play with a lead, play with a lot of energy and trust in each other that that guy will get the job done. You know, it hurts, but we've got another game on Friday, so got a couple days to let this one simmer, and should come out and try and play a good game on Friday. That's the only thing we can control from this point forward is how our focus shifts to Friday and the game we play then.”

Clemson starter Charlie Barnes pitched six strong innings, giving up just one earned run, and left with a 3-2 lead. However, Duke managed to score the tying run in the seventh and three in the eighth to forge the win. Barnes, pitching on four days rest, was lifted after 86 pitches.

“Yeah, I felt like I could have gone longer, but I was also getting pretty tight being on four days' rest. It was a quick turnaround,” Barnes said. “I can't blame them at all. I was getting pretty tight there towards the end, so I think it was a really good decision to try to stay healthy, not only for the rest of the tournament but also the NCAA Tournament.”

With the NCAA Tournament starting next week, Cox says the Tigers have to get better soon.

“It's big. Tonight was big. We don't treat any game differently just because that's the last game of the tournament or today is the first game of the tournament,” Cox said. “We've got to look at it the same way we approach every game as if that game is the biggest game of the year, so we've got to be ready to play against a really, really good Virginia club and I'm confident that our guys will respond in a positive way and be ready to play on Friday.”

Head coach Monte Lee said that Clemson needs a win Friday to build momentum for the NCAA Tournament.

“Well, it's a very big game. We all know what's at stake,” Lee said. “We know what's at stake. We're trying to -- obviously we're trying to play our best baseball this time of year to put ourselves in a good position moving into next week, so it's a big game. Virginia is a really good ballclub. They're all important right now for every reason. They're important to try to build positive momentum going into a regional. So yeah, they're big.”

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