Baseball can be a tricky sport and when a program like Clemson isn’t winning at a high level, questions start to mount. At this point in the season there seem to be more questions and concerns than answers.
The Tigers head into this evening’s matchup with their rival, South Carolina, sporting a 21-21 record overall and a 15-15 record in conference play. They hope to salvage one out of three versus the Gamecocks this season.
Over recent years Clemson has owned this series with an overall record of 181–143-2. The Tigers entered this year’s series with South Carolina having won five out of the last six series (since 2014). This included a 4-1 series record under head coach Monte Lee. They took last year’s series by winning two out of three.
The Gamecocks took the season series this year earlier this season with back to back wins over the Tigers 8-7 on February 27 at Flour Field in Greenville and 3-2 the next day in Columbia and South Carolina has won two of the past three season series.
Then when you add in that the Gamecocks, who have been down over that same span, are looking to host a regional this year it doesn’t help any. Especially since Clemson is still fighting for their postseason lives.
It’s easy to forget this Clemson team began the season with a number of key players out due to injuries. Catcher Adam Hackenburg, outfielder/infielder Sam Hall, and outfielder Kier Meredith all began the season out because of injuries as well as pitchers Mack Angling and Keyshawn Askew. Davis Sharpe has also been unavailable most of the season due to injury.
Another thing that doesn’t help is that right next door the Lady Tigers, in just their second season and first full season of softball, just won their conference regular season title and are ranked in the top 25 as they head into the ACC tournament.
Last year’s shortened season didn’t help either. The Tigers began on fire going 14-3 overall and 3-0 in the ACC before the season was ended due to the pandemic. They were also 6-0 in one run games last season compared to their 3-9 record in those type games so far this season. The Tigers did lose their top two starting pitchers from that team.
Something else that has not helped is the inconsistency that this team has shown. It’s a young but very talented team. As the veterans have gotten healthy, the team has played much better, but it doesn’t make it any easier for Clemson fans considering that it may not feel as though this team is performing to the level that some fans feel they should be.
For example, the Tigers sweep Wake on the road and sweep No. 7 Louisville at home, then go to Atlanta and get swept by Georgia Tech. They have also uncharacteristically dropped multiple midweek games, including games to CofC and USC Upstate.
Make no mistake, this team still has a lot to play for, including a chance at making the postseason. Finishing strong as they push forward and continue to get better will be key. As will staying healthy. That push starts tonight at home against in-state rival South Carolina.