Tigers prepare for the biggest game of the season

LOUISVILLE—The Clemson Tigers final game of the ACC Tournament may very well be the biggest of the season in determining where the Tigers will play the regional round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Tigers will look to solidify their place as one of the 16 host teams for the regionals with a victory over No. 11 Virginia Friday. However, the Tigers’ hopes of hosting a regional are officially on life support after dropping 10 of their last 11 games and dropping out of national seed contention to the 16th seed overall according to D1Baseball.com and 13th seed overall according to Baseball America.

Should the Tigers lose to Virginia chances are good that the Tigers could be packing their bags and heading on the road to play the regional round of the tournament, rather than enjoying the comforts of Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

“Clemson, at No. 10 in the RPI, is on shakier ground than it was a few weeks ago,” Baseball America’s Teddy Cahill wrote. “At one time looking like a near-lock for a national seed, the Tigers lost three straight Atlantic Coast Conference series down the stretch and lost its opening game to Duke in the ACC Tournament. The Tigers could fall out of the hosting race if they go 0-2 in Louisville.”

The good news for the Tigers is that they have already beaten Virginia, taking two out of three games from the Cavaliers. The bad news for the Tigers is that was a long time ago—over two months ago.

And since that time the Tigers have enjoyed the highest of highs and are currently in, seemingly, the lowest of lows, but, for the head coach Monte Lee, this phenomenon is something that is not uncommon.

“You’ve seen it (teams struggling) plenty of times,” Lee said. “I’ve been in the game long enough to see teams go through odd spells. I think that oftentimes, whether it’s injury related or expectation related. I think sometimes when you come into the season and you’re a preseason—a team that’s rated extremely high in the preseason and sometimes the pressure on your players and coaching staff.”

It is that pressure, that the Tigers were eating like candy earlier in the season, that the coaching staff will try to alleviate as they prepare to play their final game of the ACC Tournament, while trying to build momentum as the NCAA Tournament approaches.

“Well, it’s a very big game. We know what’s at stake,” Lee said. “We’re trying to—obviously, we’re trying to play our best baseball this time of the 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.”

Due to inclement weather in Louisville, the Tigers game against Virginia, which was originally scheduled for an 11 a.m. first pitch, will be played at noon at the University of Louisville’s Him Patterson Stadium. The game will be televised on the ACC Network Extra only.

The pitchers for both the Tigers and the Cavaliers have yet to be named.

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