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Clemson baseball completes second consecutive weekend sweep

StevensClemsonVLouisville-33.jpg

Clemson's James Parker is second on the team in homers (seven) and RBIs (27). Davis Stevens/Clemson Athletics.

CLEMSON — The Clemson baseball team was riding high the evening of May 2, and for good reason. For the second consecutive week, the Tigers had swept an ACC opponent. First Wake Forest, and now Louisville.

So what did coach Monte Lee say to his players when he reached the team clubhouse afterward?

"Nothing."  

It is Lee's belief that it is best to not overcoach, especially when things are going well. And for Clemson, things are going really well. After a turbulent first 33 during games that saw Tigers sitting at 15-18, Lee's team is now at No. 51 in the NCAA's official Ratings Percentage Index list, a stunning turnaround made possible by six consecutive wins.

The topper came May 2, when Clemson put the finishing touches on the Cardinals with a 15-5 victory, marking the first time Louisville had ever been swept in a three-game ACC series since the program joined the league in 2014.

"Our guys were aware of it," Lee said. "That's just a testament to how good Louisville has been, and is. Never been swept. We challenged our guys: hey, let's make history today."

The biggest key to the turnaround, Lee said, has been the consistency of the Tigers' pitching staff. Lee has settled on right-hander Mack Anglin and left-handers Keyshawn Askew and Mat Clark as the weekend starters, and all three have provided Clemson's offense the space to generate runs. 

Clark allowed three earned runs over 32/3 innings on May 2, but it hardly mattered as Clemson recorded 18 hits. Even Davis Sharpe, who has struggled as a hitter while an elbow injury has kept him off the mound, went 3 for 3 with a three-run homer. Freshman Caden Grice went 4 for 4 with two walks and two RBIs. Grice leads the Tigers in batting average (.358), homers (12) and RBIs (43).

"Caden is Caden. Caden is one of the best freshman hitters in the country," Lee said, before correcting himself. "One of the best hitters in the country."

"Kid's unreal," Sharpe said of Grice. "Never played with anyone like him. Never seen anybody like him on a baseball field. The kid, he's just a next level talent."

With Grice leading a surging offense, and the Tigers finally having found some stability on the mound, Lee's team has turned its fortunes around. But there is still plenty of baseball left to play before the ACC Tournament starts May 25. 

The Tigers have weekend series at Georgia Tech and Florida State, and a home series against Duke. On May 11, they host South Carolina.

But first, on May 5, Lee's team has the chance to atone for its most embarrassing loss of the season. On March 9, in what might have been Clemson's low point, the Tigers fell 12-2 to USC Upstate. This time, Lee's team is riding high. 

Follow Joshua Needelman on Twitter at @joshneedelman.

Joshua Needelman covers Clemson for The Post and Courier. He's a Long Island, N.Y., native and a University of Maryland alum. He's won national and state awards in sports and feature writing, and for reasons unclear he still roots for the New York Knicks.

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