Final Exams: Tigers recovering from weekend sweep


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Lee and the Tigers have 11 regular season games remaining
Lee and the Tigers have 11 regular season games remaining

Clemson students are having their final exams this week, and the Tiger baseball team is using the time away from the game to prepare for the athletic version of finals.

Monte Lee’s eighth-ranked Tigers went 1-3 last week. The week started with a win over Charleston on Tuesday, but ended with the Tigers being swept in a series against North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The Tigers have lost six out of their last ten games, and with 45 games in the books and 11 left in the regular season, the exams might be a welcome break for a tired baseball team.

“I think it's come at a good time where I think our guys are frustrated and disappointed mentally from last weekend,” Lee told TigerNet Tuesday. “I think it's good for us mentally and physically being 45 games into the season and coming off of a tough weekend to get a couple of days where we're not doing anything organized as a team and just let them be students and let them focus on being just students and taking care of their academics and kind of getting away from it for a couple of days. We had a brief meeting yesterday as a team and just talked about outside of just focusing on academics and getting some rest and recovering some, what our plan was as a team going into this weekend once we can get back together.

“Our guys are in really good spirits. They're obviously disappointed, but the one thing they can pull from this weekend is, 'Man, we can compete with anybody.' We have a team that when we play complete baseball, we can play with anybody in the country. I think that was a positive that came out of this past weekend. I think our guys were frustrated that we didn't finish because they felt like we were in a position to win each game and that hasn't really happened to us a whole lot. We haven't had that happen. Sometimes things like this can be great learning tools for you and can really redirect your focus a little bit sometimes as a team, and I certainly hope so.”

The Tigers had a chance to win all three games against the Tar Heels, but situational hitting cost Clemson dearly in the last two games as they struggled to move runners over and get runners in from third with less than two out.

Clemson failed to record a two-out RBI in the three-game set, hit 3-for-25 with runners in scoring position, left 22 runners on base and were just 9-for-42 with runners on base.

“I think if you ask our position players right now what are the big things that I'm telling them or that we're talking about, it's that. It's situational hitting. We've got to be a better team hitting in situations,” Lee said. “It's kind of a catch-22 for me as a coach because I think sometimes the more you talk about what you've got to do a better job of, the more pressure your players put on themselves in that situation instead of just relaxing and trusting their training and just trying to understand what their plan is and what they're trying to do. It's a little bit of a catch-22. You don't want your players to put too much pressure on themselves. You want them to go up there and be aggressive and compete in the box, but they also have to be aware of these are our deficiencies and we have to work on this.

“We've got to find a way for every player in our lineup when they're in that situation, 'What do I need to do as a player from an approach standpoint to get the job done?' It's a little bit of both. We're definitely talking about it, but I'm trying to make sure that my message is sent in a way that we're in this thing together - me as the coach, I'm in this with you. I'm just as accountable as you are. We have to find a way as coaches to put you in a position to be successful based on coming up with a plan together that we both feel good about when we're in these situations. You also have to take a step back and look at the situation and say, 'Okay, I have to hit a ball to the right side of the field here.' We can't hit a ball to third base in that situation. Sometimes you have to sell out with a runner at third and less than two outs and sit on a pitch.”

Clemson hitters ran into trouble at Florida St. after Seminole pitchers refused to throw fastballs in certain situations, leaving the Tigers flailing at off-speed pitches. The Tar Heels followed the same blueprint, throwing primarily breaking balls in the series.

“I think one thing that was apparent that North Carolina did to us was they threw a lot of off-speed pitches with runners in scoring position. Had we been able to make some adjustments in the game, we would've been better off, but it didn't happen and we've got to learn from that,” Lee said. “That's going to be on the scouting reports moving forward. Those are things we have to learn as a group and as a unit. We have to be able to adjust in games to what we're seeing at the plate. That's on me as the head coach and I have to communicate that more, but they have to see it happening too and make their adjustments and feel like they can adjust along with what the pitcher is doing to them. That was a big thing we talked about - being able to adjust in games to what's going on.

“When we make a mistake - we made two errors on the weekend and both of those errors scored - so we can't allow an error to get to you. It was a physical mistake, It's baseball. It's going to happen, but we've got to be able to flush it and move on. As positive as I could send a message after last weekend, we did not play our best baseball and for a majority of all three games, we were in control of the game. I think our guys understand that. It's a little bit different than it was last year. Last year, we got swept at Louisville and Louisville just out-manned us. I think our guys truly believe that we have a team that can compete with anybody in the country. We've got work to do and we've definitely got to get better. This is a big weekend and a big week for us moving forward with not being able to be on the field and get our normal routine in. It could be a blessing for us and we could be really refreshed going into the weekend and I certainly hope so. I'm really interested to see what happens this upcoming weekend.”

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