Monte Lee apologizes to fans for season-opening series loss

by - Senior Writer -
Lee makes a pitching change Sunday afternoon (Photo by David Grooms)
Lee makes a pitching change Sunday afternoon (Photo by David Grooms)

CLEMSON – All of the ingredients for a picture-perfect baseball afternoon were present Sunday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. A packed crowd, a ranked team and a sun-splashed late winter day that promotes thoughts of spring.

For most of the 5,239 fans in attendance, however, thoughts of a pleasant spring afternoon at the old ball yard ended when a fly ball bounced off of center fielder K.J. Bryant’s glove and over the fence for a 2-run homer in the second inning of what turned out to be a 9-2 rout by Wright St. over the 10th-ranked Tigers. Clemson failed to respond to the early adversity, and the win gave the Raiders a two games to one series win.

Not the best way to start a season, and head coach Monte Lee started his postgame press conference by apologizing to the fans for his teams’ performance.

“Give Wright State credit. After we evened the series yesterday, they came out today, and they played a really good ballgame behind their starting pitcher, Danny Sexton,” Lee said. “We knew we were going to have a tough test ahead of today with Sexton being their number one starter. He threw extremely well.

“The bottom line is today I apologize to our fans. I have to be accountable. It always starts with me. I have to do a better job of coaching our players, getting our players ready to play the game. I feel like I failed them. This was a tough one to take, and I apologize to our fans who came out to support our players today and to our fan base. I have to do a better job preparing our team and getting them ready to play. It definitely falls on my shoulders.”

Lee said Sunday’s problems were in all facets of the game.

“We just could not get anything going right today. I thought we did a pretty good job of throwing strikes and getting ahead of their guys, but the bottom line is we didn't execute pitches with two strikes,” he said. “They got a bunch of hits with two strikes. Every time we made a mistake defensively, it came back to bite us. We just couldn't come up with a hit. Offensively, they made pitches, and we didn't take very good swings in the strike zone today. It just falls on coaching. We have to try to put our guys in a position to execute better on the mound when they get ahead of hitters and when we get in good counts to hit, we have to take better swings and that falls on us as coaches. Our guys today just could not get anything going. Hopefully, we can put it behind us, we can have a good practice on Tuesday and get ready for our first mid-week game on Wednesday.”

The Tigers are battling both sickness and injury while trying to break in several new players. Center fielder Chase Pinder has the flu, outfielder Reed Rohlman has been dealing with a sore shoulder and catcher Chris Williams is out four to six weeks with a hand injury.

In the infield, Seth Beer is playing a new position and second baseman Grayson Byrd, shortstop Logan Davidson, third baseman Patrick Cromwell and catcher Kyle Wilkie all played their first games as Tigers this past weekend.

Lee said, however, that he didn’t want to make excuses.

“We're still trying to figure out what's the right mix,” Lee said. “We're going to try to platoon some guys and give guys some opportunities. It's not an excuse, and it just is what it is, but anytime you lose a guy like Pinder and Williams, some guys are going to have to step in and give us quality at-bats, quality defense and be competitive. I expected, obviously, for us to be challenged because of it. We've got to keep fighting our way through it. A lot of new guys pitched. One of the positives is that a lot of new guys in the program played and pitched this weekend.

“Hopefully, they can build on those experiences. As coaches, we have to do a better job of executing. I saw a team in the preseason play the game pretty well, but we have to learn from these mistakes, do a better job as coaches to put our guys in a better position to be successful. We're not going to make any excuses for not having a couple of guys in the lineup. We'll do everything we can as coaches to try and get them prepared for this week.”

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