Clemson Hard to Stop

CLEMSON — Earlier this season, Clemson lost close games to Central Florida, South Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest. To top things off, the Tigers lost late leads in nine of those games, and at one point, lost five straight one-run games.

“It’s not coach speak. One hundred percent, honest to God, I will tell you this team is going to turn the corner,” Clemson head coach Erik Bakich said on April 1 following the Tigers’ second straight one-run loss to No. 2 Wake Forest. “And when we do, because of their toughness and because of their grit, it is going to be hard to stop us.”

Bakich was right. Clemson has been hard to stop.

Since Bakich’s proclamation, the Tigers have posted a 15-4 record, including a 12-3 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“The talent has always been there. It has been there since Day 1,” he said. “Once that belief system really gets anchored in though, and guys get confident, a confident team can do anything, and confident players can do anything. Our guys have a lot of confidence right now.”

On Sunday, Clemson (31-17, 14-10) finished off a three-game sweep of No. 22 Louisville and all of sudden has gone from a team where some wondered if they would even make the ACC Tournament, to a team that is now in the conversation of hosting a regional in the NCAA Tournament.

“If you have been watching us from the start, you know we have been in every single game,” said pitcher/first baseman Caden Grice. “We have worked our butts off. We have been here the whole time, but it is just starting to show, and we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.”

Billy Amick, who plays first base when Grice is pitching and is Clemson’s full-time designated hitter, believed it was only a matter of time before they all started to put things together. They always felt confident in themselves and what they could accomplish.

“Keep our head down and keep going to work. Trust the process. Trust our training, what we have done and what we have prepared for,” Amick said. “Just let it all happen.”

Bakich feels his team might not be where they are right now if they had not gone through those early-season struggles. He believes those struggles helped shape their identity and helped define who they are. It made them tougher and resilient.

Now, when they are in those close games like they were in Game 1 and Game 2 against Louisville this past weekend, it is not a big deal because they have experience being in those situations. They are comfortable in those uncomfortable situations.

“We lost a lot of games when we had either the lead or tied after the seventh during the first half of the season,” Bakich said. “Game 2 against South Carolina. All three against UCF and then the first couple of weekends of ACC play. The two we lost to Duke were that way. We were one strike away from a Friday night victory at Georgia Tech and had the lead against Wake in the middle game going into the eighth or ninth.

“You can’t really say it is about injuries or all that because everybody goes through injuries. But experiencing those letdowns enough it is like a boxer that gets punched, eventually he does not feel it. It’s ‘So what!’ It is a so what feeling. That is just where we are at now.”

Clemson, who now finds itself high in the RPI and ranked as high as No. 18 in the polls, knows it has not arrived and still has a long way to go. The Tigers hit the road this week where they will visit Coastal Carolina on Wednesday in Conway, S.C., before making the trip to Blacksburg, Va., on Friday to take on a streaking Virginia Tech ballclub in a three-game series.

“We still have not done anything yet,” Bakich said. “Now is not the time to pick our head up and be looking at standings and rankings, projections, and things like that. We still have a lot of work to do and that is where we will be as the time goes, we will just keep getting better.”

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