Clemson was at one time one of the premier baseball programs in the country.
Despite never winning a national title, the program has made a dozen appearances in the College World Series. The Tigers made it to Omaha three times in the 90’s and four times between 2000-2010.
Not only was that 2010 season the last time Clemson appeared in the College World Series, it’s also the last time the program made it to a Super Regional. Since being sent home by rival South Carolina in that 2010 season, the program just hasn’t been the same.
Over the next five seasons the Tigers took a step backwards and in 2015 were the last team selected to play in the NCAA Tournament. Dan Radakovich and the administration then made the difficult decision of firing a Hall of Fame coach in Jack Leggett and hiring Monte Lee.
Through the first three seasons of Lee’s tenure, it appeared that the Tigers were back on track. Clemson won the ACC Tournament in Lee’s first season and won the regular season conference title in 2018.
The Tigers also won more than 40 games and hosted regionals in each of Lee’s first three seasons. While they failed to get out of any of those regionals, it seemed as if they were on the verge of taking that next step.
Then in 2019, things started heading south. The team won only 35 games and barely made a regional as a three-seed and then were quickly eliminated. In 2020 they did win 14 of their 17 games in the shortened season, but never really got into ACC play with the season being canceled after only one conference series.
The wheels came completely off in 2021. Clemson finished up the season on Wednesday night with a record of 25-27. The first losing season since 1957, the year before Bill Wilhelm was hired. Now Lee is being faced with the question of if he is the right man for the job.
“I haven’t had a lot of time, I’ve been focusing on trying to, you know, focusing on our team right now,” Lee said after the Tigers season finale Wednesday night. “But I’m a believer in track record. I’ve got 13 years experience as a head coach and have put together a lot of successful teams.”
Coming into the season the general consensus was this could be one of Lee’s best teams yet, especially from a pitching perspective. However, that’s not how it played out and the fan base is not happy with the program’s first losing season in more than six decades.
While Lee is well aware of his teams shortcomings this season and knows the fans are disappointed, he still fully believes he is the right man for the job.
“I believe in myself, I believe that I can lead this team,” Lee said. “I can get this team going in the right direction again. I believe in my toughness. I’m confident that I can coach this team at a high level, I can coach baseball at a high level. So I certainly believe in myself.”
Lee is a big believer in accountability and took full responsibility for what has transpired this season. He plans to take a long, hard look at what went wrong this season and when the time comes for Lee to have his end of the season sit down with Radakovich, he will lay out his plan for getting the program back on track.
“I’ve also got to look at all the things that we’ve got to get better at and what are the areas that we need to improve upon,” Lee said. “I’m sure that when I get that opportunity, whenever that may be, you know, we’ll discuss those things and I’ll certainly get Dan’s input as well. He’s one of the best athletic directors in the country and I’m sure that there are some things that he would wanna share with me as well.”