Clemson baseball entered the ACC Tournament positioned squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
The Tigers left the tournament deflated.
“We knew we were going to have to execute pitches and do all the little things against one of the best lineups in the country,” Clemson coach Monty Lee said following the Tigers ’18-6 manhandling by no. 2 Virginia Tech (41-11) on Thursday night at Truist Field in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Clemson (35-23) did neither.
The result was an 0-2 record against its two tournament opponents and a hefty blow to the Tigers’ NCAA Tournament hopes.
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The general consensus – both by armchair managers and people who make a living predicting such – was that Clemson needed to win at least one game in the ACC Tournament to have a chance at gaining a spot among the 64 teams who will be announced on Monday ( ESPN2, noon).
D1Baseball.com had Clemson listed as the “last team in” prior to the tournament, but being outscored by a 27-8 margin in two games is likely to relegate the Tigers to “first team out” status.
If indeed the Tigers are left out of the NCAA’s postseason party, it won’t be because they were overlooked; it’ll be because they weren’t deemed worthy.
Once an NCAA Tournament fixture (Clemson has failed to make baseball’s “Big Dance” just twice in the last 34 tournaments), the Tigers have in recent years lost their edge in an ACC that may be sending as many as 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament .
This much is certain: If Clemson is to gain inclusion, it best hopes the selection committee is lenient in its judgments.
The Tigers’ 35 victories might be enough in some instances, but the team’s 13-16 record in the ACC’s regular season and 12th-place finish in the league standings could be problematic. So too could Clemson’s RPI, which was 33rd a few days ago, but is sure to take a turn for the worse after a 9-2 loss to No. 8 seed North Carolina and the bona fide pummeling administered by Virginia Tech.
“We made it interesting early, but their offense is just so good,” Lee said. “(Virginia Tech) Coach (John) Szefc has got a fantastic ballclub that is built to make a deep run.”
The Tigers aren’t likely to be afforded a similar opportunity after missing out on theirs.