CLEMSON — Clemson baseball still has one game left in its 2021 season as the Tigers will face Georgia Tech on Wednesday night in the ACC Tournament.
But the year is basically over after Clemson suffered a 15-10 loss to Louisville on Tuesday afternoon.
The Tigers will at best finish the year 25-27, and no matter what happens against the Yellow Jackets, Clemson will suffer its first losing season since 1957.
This is also Clemson’s first time missing the NCAA Tournament since 2008 as Year 6 under Monte Lee has been a major disappointment.
Lee spoke to the media following Clemson’s 15-10 loss to Louisville on Tuesday afternoon and took the blame for what happened this year. Here is what he said and how one of Clemson’s most talented players responded:
Question: What’s your message to the team knowing tomorrow’s your last game of the season? How do you keep them focused?
Monte Lee: The biggest message is that we’ve got one game left. I think it’s pretty simple. We’ve got one game left. Let’s go out and from pitch one until the game is over, let’s cheer for each other. Let’s have great dugout energy. Let’s have a lot of fun. This will be the last game for this team for this year. Everybody just bring as much energy as they can for each other and let’s go play baseball. It’s pretty simple.
Question: What’s the mood like with the guys in the clubhouse?
Monte Lee: Well, I think they’re down in the dumps right now. Obviously that’s a tough loss. We all knew what today represented for us, that our season, pretty much, was dependent upon today’s game. I think the guys knew that, and they’re down in the dumps. But the energy was great today. The guys came out ready to go. They competed. There wasn’t a guy in there that wasn’t competing as hard as he could for his team today.
Obviously I haven’t had a chance to talk to them after today’s game and all that stuff. But I’m sure they’re hurting pretty bad, especially the older guys in the program that going into tomorrow, it may be the last ballgame that they play for us.
Question: How do you try to motivate the team tomorrow?
Monte Lee: The bottom line is tomorrow’s the last game of the season for our team, so as far as motivation goes, I think the motivation is for each other. It’s for the guys that are going to be leaving the program that won’t be with us anymore, whether it’s by graduation or whether it’s by the draft. There’s going to be quite a few guys tomorrow that have played a lot of baseball in a Clemson uniform, and tomorrow’s about them.
We need to go out and just compete as hard as we can for those guys and let’s play a good baseball game. That’s the bottom line, let’s go out and just enjoy competing together for the last time. That’s really the message that I’ll have for the team tomorrow.
Question: Does it feel weird that you’re not going to be in the postseason this year?
Monte Lee: Yea, it seems really weird. This is my 13th year as a head coach and my expectations as the head coach is to always be in the postseason. And we’ve had a nice run here at Clemson of being in the postseason. So I don’t know if weird is the right word or not.
I think it’s just trying to come to grips with it, quite honestly. Just the reality of it is really, really hard right now. I’ve got to look at myself first. You guys know this, I’m going to be very accountable for everything in this program. So I’m going to look at myself first and look as we get through tomorrow, what do I have to do a better job of? What do us as a coaching staff have to do a better job of to prepare our guys for next year? For some of these players in the program that will be back, to make sure we put them in a position to be successful and play in the postseason.
We’ve got a lot of really good players in here. We’ve got some young guys in this program that are outstanding players, and they have expectations of playing in the postseason as well, so I failed them. That’s the bottom line. I failed our club. I didn’t do a good enough job this year of putting them in a position to be successful and getting into the postseason. So for me, that’s the feeling right now. I feel like I’ve failed our club. I know what the expectations are. I haven’t lived up to that standard and that expectation this year. And I’m going to do everything I can to try to fix some of these issues.
I just need to do a better job as the head coach and the leader of the program. So yea, I don’t know if weird’s the right word. It’s more I feel pretty disappointed in myself. And I’ve got to look at myself in the mirror first and foremost.
Question to freshman first baseman Caden Grice: What goes through your head when you hear coach Lee take the blame for this season?
Caden Grice: Well, he teaches us to take responsibility for ourselves. I think that’s him setting a good example for us as a team. He’s done a great job. I think it all comes down to us performing on the field. So I don’t think that has anything to do with him.
Question to Caden Grice: What’s the mood like in the clubhouse?
Caden Grice: Everybody’s pretty down, just because it’s some people’s last game ever here at Clemson due to them leaving, or the draft or who knows. The only focus we have is coming out tomorrow and trying to win the last ballgame.