Sleep will come later for nationally-seeded Tigers and Monte Lee
|Monday, May 30, 2016, 3:26 PM- -|
CLEMSON – Monte Lee will sleep when the season is over. Right now, he’s having too much fun to take time for a nap.
Lee’s Clemson baseball team was a NCAA Tournament national seed for the first time since 2006, and the ACC champs were one of 16 programs selected to host a NCAA regional for the 70th-annual Division I Baseball Championship, announced Sunday night by the NCAA. The regional will begin at Doug Kingsmore Stadium on Friday.
In the Clemson regional, Clemson is the No. 1 seed, while No. 2 seed Oklahoma State, No. 3 seed Nebraska and No. 4 seed Western Carolina round out the regional. Game times are noon and 7 p.m., on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and 7 p.m. for the if-necessary game on Monday. The Tigers are also the No. 7 national seed, their fourth national seed in history and first since 2006.
“I'm just very excited. Very grateful that the selection committee looked at our resume and determined that we are worthy of a national seed. I'm very happy for my players,” Lee told TigerNet after the selection. “I'm happy to be here. I'm just overwhelmed really. It's just been an unbelievable day for our program, for our players, for our university, for our community, for our fan base. Overall, I'm just elated to sit here and be a national seed, but we all know the season begins now, so we've got a lot of work ahead of us. We've got a great field coming to Clemson and a lot of work to do if we plan on winning this regional.”
Clemson is in the same bracket as regional host and arch-rival South Carolina, and the winner of each regional will meet in the Super regional. If it’s Clemson and South Carolina, the teams will renew acquaintances for a three-game set in Doug Kingsmore, but Lee says the Tigers have to worry about next weekend first.
“We're excited about that, but to be honest with you that doesn't exist right now. We've got to get out of this regional first. I think the worst thing you can do right now sitting where I am is start looking ahead,” Lee said. “You can't look ahead. We've got quality opponents coming into Clemson to play us. You look at Western Carolina, who we have to play first. We've got to take care of Western Carolina first, and if you look at the two games, we played them this year they competed pretty hard against us. We were very fortunate to beat them when we played them here at Clemson.
“Oklahoma State - Josh Holliday is one of the best coaches in the country. They were a preseason top 10 team. Nebraska is coached by Darin Erstad. They're another very dangerous team with very good pitching and a very good lineup. We've got to worry about this regional first. We're all excited to be a national seed and to be paired up with South Carolina is awesome, but we can't focus on that right now. It truly does not exist. We've got to get this regional first.”
Clemson will face off against Western Carolina on Friday, a team the Tigers defeated twice this season – 10-8 at Western Carolina and 7-6 in ten innings at Doug Kingsmore a few weeks later.
“I think it's good for both teams because we are familiar with each other. We do know a good bit about their lineup and their offense and some of their pitchers, so we do have scouting reports on them,” Lee said. “That's a good thing from both teams' standpoints, but you also have to look at it, and it's the postseason. Everything changes now. Everybody is playing for their lives. It's going to be a tough battle for us. They've got a really good offense. They're very well-coached, and they've got some very good arms. They're going to be excited. They're not going to feel any pressure coming into Clemson. They're playing with house money now, so they're ready to play, so we better be ready to go. We're really good at home, so it's only going to bring confidence to our ball club. We play well at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. We're going to have our fan base behind us, so I know our guys are excited about the opportunity, and we feel really good about it.”
Lee said that while he was proud of his team earning a national seed, he understands that there is still more to be accomplished.
“You want to live in the moment. I think that's the biggest thing. It's one of those things you'll always remember. You'll always remember when your name pops up there, and Clemson is a national seed,” he said. “It's a feeling of accomplishment. It's a feeling of excitement, but it's also a feeling of, 'Hey, this is a great moment, but we've still got a lot of work to do.' We met with the team about an hour ago and talked about that just understanding that it is a moment to cherish. It's a moment to remember with your teammates. It's something you'll never forget and we should embrace it and enjoy it and celebrate it, but we also understand that we've got a lot of work to do, and it all starts on Friday.
“It's very gratifying. When I was given the opportunity to come to Clemson, I wasn't going to leave the College of Charleston for just a better job. I was going to leave the College of Charleston for a dream job. It was going to have to be a dream job scenario for me to leave and Clemson is a dream job scenario for me. To be the head coach at Clemson, a place with so much tradition and has had so much success, a community that supports the programs here the way that they do - to be a part of it is a dream come true for me. To have the kind of success that we've had in year one, it says a lot about our players and the buy-in factor that they've had all year. To come out every day and work as hard as they can and compete as hard as they can to put themselves in a position says a lot about the leadership and the selflessness of this ball club and I couldn't be happier to be a part of it.”
Sleep has been hard to come by for Lee in recent weeks, but he doesn’t care.
“I got home, and I fell asleep and slept pretty hard, but then I woke up at 6:30 because I'm still on those breakfast club hours from the ACC Tournament. We've been getting up pretty early and trying to get ready for the morning games that we had in the ACC Tournament, so my clock hasn't changed yet,” he said. “I'm sure I'll crash at some point, but, heck, I'll sleep when the season is over. It's too good right now. Every day is so exciting for us right now and something that I want to enjoy and look back and appreciate. We're battle tested, and I don't think we're going to face anything moving forward that we haven't already faced. We just went through the ACC Tournament on the road and won four games against three teams that are hosting regionals, so our team is battle tested. There's nothing that's going to be thrown at this club that we haven't already seen. We're ready for it.”