COMMENTARY

Clemson has to take next step under Lee very soon

BY DENNIS BRUNSON
dennis@theitem.com
Posted 6/5/18

Monte Lee has pointed the Clemson baseball program in the right direction since he became its head coach three years ago.

Lee, the former College of Charleston head coach and South Carolina assistant under Ray Tanner, has led the Tigers to three …

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COMMENTARY

Clemson has to take next step under Lee very soon

Posted

Monte Lee has pointed the Clemson baseball program in the right direction since he became its head coach three years ago.

Lee, the former College of Charleston head coach and South Carolina assistant under Ray Tanner, has led the Tigers to three consecutive 40-win season. Clemson did that only once in predecessor Jack Leggett's final four years as head coach.

The Tigers won the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division this year, something they hadn't done since 2010, and shared the ACC regular-season crown. Clemson has hosted a regional each year under Lee's leadership after having to take to the road in each of Leggett's final four seasons.

That's all good and well, but, just like at arch rival USC, that's not how success is measured in Tiger Town. It comes down to advancing to super regionals to give yourself a shot at reaching the College World Series. And Clemson has fallen short each of the past three years in a mighty way.

In 2016, the Tigers had a national seed and a chance to host a super regional. However, they ran into Oklahoma State, which went 5-0 in the state of South Carolina, winning three games in Clemson and then taking two from USC in the Columbia super regional.

Last season, the Tigers were knocked out by Vanderbilt, just as they were on Sunday. However, there was a lot more sting with this regional meltdown.

The fact Clemson went down 19-6 to the Commodores lets you know the Tigers have to improve their pitching depth. That turned into a slow pitch softball game with Vandy smacking nine home runs. That is Clemson's modus operandi, not the Commodores'.

In all on Sunday, Clemson allowed 27 runs, beating St. John's 9-8 earlier in the day in an elimination game.

What also hurts is going into its winners bracket game on Saturday against Vanderbilt, Clemson knew it was in a position to host a super regional. Florida State, the No. 7 national seed which was set to host the Clemson regional winner, was eliminated in two games.

The Seminoles fell to Mississippi State 3-2 on Saturday afternoon, meaning the Tigers were set to host a super regional. Of course, that didn't happen.

This doesn't mean that Lee's job is anywhere close to being in jeopardy. However, a couple of more years like the first three and the calls will start coming with more frequency.

The Clemson program has improved under Lee's guidance. That can't be argued; at best, it had plateaued under Leggett, many saying it had regressed.

The Tigers have taken steps - albeit small ones - under Lee each season. If that big step doesn't come soon though, the pressure will mount quickly.

And Lee is no doubt aware of that.