Road weary Tigers ready for a little home cooking
|Thursday, April 21, 2016, 2:14 PM- -|
CLEMSON – The Clemson baseball team is ready for a little home cooking.
Before Tuesday night’s 12-0 win over Georgia the Tigers had played 12 of the previous 16 games away from the friendly confines of Doug Kingsmore Stadium and went 7-9 in that stretch. With the win over Georgia the Tigers are now 16-2 at Doug Kingsmore, and the Georgia game began a stretch of 13 consecutive games at home.
“One of the best things that could've happened to us going through as tough a stretch as we've gone through was to be at home - to be at home now for the next 13 games,” head coach Monte Lee said Tuesday. “Our guys are very comfortable at home. We play well at home. The crowd here helps our ball club. Our guys believe that they're a really good club at home, so it's big for us. We need to be at home. It couldn't have come at a better time. After being on the road for back-to-back weekends and not playing our best baseball, it's obviously good for our club to be back at home.”
The next 12 games include three games against Georgia Tech this weekend and a three-game set against Florida St. the following weekend. There are no midweek games next because of exams, and the Florida St. series starts on Saturday and ends on Monday. Furman plays at Clemson the following Wednesday and then N.C. State comes to town for a three-game set. That is followed by a two-game series against Lee’s former club, the College of Charleston.
Florida St. and N.C. State are ahead of the Tigers in the ACC Atlantic Division and how the Tigers fare over the next 12 games could determine NCAA Tournament seeding and whether the Tigers host or go on the road for a NCAA Regional.
The Yellow Jackets have lost five of six, but the Tigers are facing uncertainty in the pitching staff. Charlie Barnes will start Friday’s game and Alex Eubanks will start Saturday. After that it’s all hands on deck for Lee’s club.
“We know that Barnes, Eubanks and (Clate) Schmidt can start. Ryley (Gilliam) is an option,” Lee said. “Another guy that is an option who has made two starts for us and thrown well out of the pen is (Alex) Schnell. He's an option. We are going to try to make a decision to get through game one and try to win game one and then see who our best starter is for game two.”
Gilliam earned the win over the Bulldogs Tuesday, going five innings in which he allowed just one hit. He could be an option for the start on Sunday.
“We were going to wait until after tonight to see how it could shake it. We wanted to keep his pitch count to where it's an option. He threw 72,” Lee said. “We would have liked to have him done at about 60 to see if Sunday is a possibility. It's just something we will have to look at. We will have to see how he feels - that will be four days’ rest. That's a possibility, but it will be more based on how Ryley feels and how he recovers.”
For right now, however, Sunday's starter is TBA - to be announced.
“As of right now I would say yes. We are going to go all hands on deck to win this series this weekend,” Lee said. “The only reason we would go TBA is because we might use a guy out of the bullpen on Saturday that could start on Sunday. We are going to talk about it as a coaching staff and make the best decision for our team.”
The road-weary Tigers are 25-12 and are poised for a big finish, something Lee says is possible because they know they have a good team.
“The key for our ball club is they believe. They believe they are a good team,” he said. “They know that they've gone through stretches where they haven't played well and haven't played to the best of their ability. It's a process. It's something that as coaches and players we have to work on together, stay upbeat and positive and focus on the things we do well. We've gone through some tough stretches, but they know I have their back, and they've responded every time I have challenged them.”