CLEMSON- Not once has this Clemson baseball team ever stopped believing.
Not after being swept early at home by UCF and not after dropping two out of three to rival South Carolina the following weekend. Not even after a series opening loss to Florida State in Tallahassee that came on the heels of yet another sweep at home, this time to Wake Forest.
It was after that 5-1 loss to the Seminoles, a game in which the Tigers managed just four hits, that things looked rather bleak. Sitting at 17-14 overall and just 2-8 in ACC play, Clemson was a team that looked to be headed nowhere fast.
It was then that something changed. A switch was flipped. The Tigers went into scorched earth mode.
Since then, Clemson is 25-3 and heads into regional play this weekend riding a 16-game winning streak, the longest among Power-5 teams.
However, there is no big secret to the remarkable turnaround. At least not according to Will Taylor. The left fielder and one of the key cogs in that Clemson lineup said the Tigers are not only still playing the same brand of baseball they started the season with, but the approach never really changed.
“We played our same brand of baseball the whole year,” Taylor said. “It just took a little while to figure it out early in the year. Started out 2-8 in ACC play, now we’re 20-10. It just shows you the leadership we have in our clubhouse and on this team. Just the coaches believing in us and trusting us. And we were able to figure it out during the season, and now we’re in a good spot.”
In fact, Taylor chalks up the recent success to hard work and sheer determination. That and the team’s passion for the game itself.
“Blue-collar, that’s what we are,” he said. “Just a group of guys that are hungry to play baseball and not scared and don’t blame anything on excuses, injuries, or anything like that. Just hungry and excited to play the next game and it doesn’t matter who the opponent is. Really just love playing the game. Have fun. Have fun in practice, have fun playing the game. And that’s what we figured out.”
Whatever it was that sparked the dramatic turn of events, third baseman Blake Wright always goes back to a speech from head coach Erik Bakich after that series opening loss in Tallahassee.
“When we were 2-8 coach Bakich looked at us and goes, ‘we have house money.’ You know what I mean,” Wright said. “So we were playing with house money. It’s that kind of mindset. Like we have nothing to lose.”
In fact, according to to slugger Billy Amick, things really started to turn a week earlier when Wake Forest came into Doug Kingsmore and pulled off a three game sweep. While the Tigers failed to come away with a win that weekend, they did manage to go toe-to-toe with a Demon Deacon team that earned the No. 1 overall seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
And pushing what is arguably the best team in the country to the limit provided that final boost of confidence that was needed for this Clemson team to make a magical run that culminated with an ACC Championship and the No. 4 overall seed heading into this weekend’s regional.
“I don’t know if it was a certain moment,” Amick said. “But for me, it would be I think our weekend at Florida State where we took the series. That was just coming off Wake Forest where we were close every game. We knew we were in it every game against Wake. We always knew we had it in us to be this type of ballclub. But I think Florida State was when I really realized we were gonna be good and we believed in ourselves. I think that’s where it turned around.”
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