CLEMSON – It wasn’t so much that Clemson lost. It was how the Tigers lost, in Monte Lee’s eyes.
Given the first of two chances to take control of the series against No. 5-ranked Florida State, Clemson fell short in all three phases of an 11-2 dismantling Sunday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
Afterward, Lee, the first-year head coach administering an attempted turnaround of the Tigers’ baseball program, huddled his team together in right-center field. He proceeded to scold the Tigers for 20 minutes, and not just because of the numbers on the scoreboard.
“It’s pretty simple. I’ve always been an aggressive guy. I don’t worry too much about making mistakes if they’re aggressive,” Lee said. “Losing today was not what probably bothered me as much as just, I want our guys to be aggressive, whatever they’re doing. The game of baseball will beat you up. Don’t let the fear of losing get the best of you. Just be aggressive.”
After winning the series opener 10-3, the wheels fell off Sunday for Clemson (27-15, 10-13 ACC) in the middle innings. With Florida State leading 3-2, senior right-hander Clate Schmidt was pulled with two on and two out, and Lee went with the left-handed Alex Bostic to send switch-hitting shortstop Taylor Walls to the right side of the plate.
It didn’t work, as Walls lined a two-out, two-run single to make it 5-2 – and in his postgame interview, Lee took responsibility for the move not succeeding.
Then in the fifth, two defensive miscues led to a four-run frame, giving FSU an insurmountable 9-2 lead.
“We got a little frustrated in the fifth inning, and we started to let the scoreboard dictate how we compete,” Lee said. “We can’t do that.”
Junior shortstop Eli White committed two errors (one fielding, one throwing) contributing to three Seminoles runs, and another scored when third baseman Jordan Greene’s throw to home trying to tag a runner was off-target.
Clemson entered the weekend with a conference-worst 61 errors. After Sunday, White has committed 15 errors, tied for the most in the ACC.
Schmidt, making his first start since April 15 with a couple of bullpen appearances in between, was touched up for seven hits and five runs (three earned) and one strikeout with no walks in 3 2/3 innings. In Clemson’s last five games, its starters have logged just 14 innings of work and been charged with 19 earned runs, a 12.21 ERA.
“It’s pretty simple: which guy gives you the best chance to get you into the fifth, maybe even the sixth inning, by pounding the strike zone and giving you a chance,” Lee said. “I think the bullpen for the most part has been OK. But we’ve got to find somebody – we’ve got to find multiple guys in a three-game series who can give us quality starts.”
For his part, Schmidt (5-3, after starting 5-0) now owns a 5.21 ERA, and has not won a decision since April 1.
Four different Seminoles (29-12, 14-5) banged out multiple hits, led by Walls’ 3-for-5 day with three RBIs. Center fielder Ben DeLuzio knocked in three runs as well, and third baseman John Sansone added a solo home run.
Clemson left fielder Reed Rohlman drove in runs in his first two at-bats, but that was all for the Clemson offense. FSU starter Drew Carlton allowed seven hits and two runs in 7 1/3 innings, firing 120 pitches.
The rubber game is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. broadcast by ESPNU, though scattered thunderstorms are in the forecast.
Tigers sophomore southpaw Alex Schnell (0-0, 3.00 ERA) is scheduled to make his third career start, and first in ACC play, on Monday. He’ll oppose FSU freshman righty Cole Sands (3-4, 4.38.)
“We might have gotten beat pretty soundly today, but we’re just as confident coming in tomorrow,” Rohlman said. “It doesn’t matter if we lost by 1 or 10, the series is still tied.”
Clemson has won four of its previous six regular season series with Florida State, and will go for five of seven Monday.