NCAA Baseball: NCAA Regionals - Vanderbilt vs Clemson

Vanderbilt players celebrate after scoring three runs in the bottom of the second inning against Clemson during Vandy's NCAA Tournament win Sunday night. Joshua S. Kelly/Special to The Post and Courier

If it seems like Clemson has been in an unusually grim NCAA baseball regional rut, yes, the numbers verify the vibe.

The Tigers on Sunday night lost their third straight home regional in as many seasons: eliminated by Oklahoma State at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in 2016, Vanderbilt in 2017 and Vandy again this year.

Since the NCAA’s 64-team super regional format started in 1999, only one other program — Georgia Tech — has lost home regionals in three straight seasons.

Georgia Tech lost its three home regionals in a row from 2009-2011. But at least the Yellow Jackets forced a second game with eventual winner Southern Miss in 2009 and played Alabama in a decisive game in 2010.

Clemson in its three home regional losing streak reached only one winner-take-all game, an 8-0 loss to Vanderbilt in 2017.

That’s not record-setting home cooking to brag about.

This latest one stings more with Florida State quickly bowing out of its own regional. Bracket chalk had Clemson going to Tallahassee for a super regional; the Tigers by Saturday knew they had a chance to host next week.

Clemson and Florida State were not the only ACC host teams to lose; N.C. State was also ousted from its own regional.

The Clemson and ACC losses go way against the 68 percent tilt for host teams winning regionals from 1999 through 2017.

Lee's progress report

Five programs have lost home regionals in two straight seasons: Arkansas 2006-2007, Texas 2006-2007, Virginia 2006-2007, Long Beach State 2007-2008 and Rice 2011-2012.

Clearly, Monte Lee, despite Clemson’s regional woes in the three years since he came from College of Charleston, has stabilized the program. Clemson didn’t host a regional in the four seasons before Lee arrived.

It’s hard to play consistently enough during three consecutive regular seasons to grab one of the top 16 spots in a national tournament every time.

And the regional draws have been tough.

A sizzling Oklahoma State team went on to upset South Carolina in the Columbia Super Regional in 2016. Vanderbilt, with former Clemson assistant coach Tim Corbin already a College World Series winner, is always a tough draw.

The Commodores are on their way to an eighth super regional in 10 seasons.

Non-competitive losses

Clemson's hard home regional luck was personified this year by Seth Beer, perhaps the Tigers' greatest slugger (particularly with statistics adjusted for the toned down bat performance science of recent years). Beer had only 10 games this season in which he failed to get a hit with four or more at-bats, and two of those came in regional losses to Vanderbilt.

Beer entered the regional batting .316, left with a .301 average.

Giving up nine homers in a game, as Clemson did in Sunday night's 19-6 loss, was obviously freakish. Sadly, however, getting clobbered in home regional games by eventual winners has become a bad habit:

• 12-2 and 9-2 losses to Oklahoma State in 2016

• 8-0 loss to Vandy in 2017

• The 19-6 nightmare.

It’s not like Clemson has exceeded expectations to snag host spots in the postseason. Though unranked in the 2016 Baseball America preseason poll, the Tigers were No. 10 and No. 12 in Baseball America’s last two preseason polls.

There will be expectations for Clemson again in 2019, probably pretty good early and not so good once the NCAA Tournament starts.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff

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