CLEMSON — It was only two weeks ago that the No. 8 Clemson Tigers were in the midst of a four-game losing streak and searching for something to go right.
Much to the surprise of the ACC, the Tigers found that something in a trip to Louisville, where they proceeded to take two out of three games -- securing their first victory at Louisville since the Cardinals joined the ACC and becoming only the second ACC team to win a series there.
Now, only two weeks later, the Tigers are currently riding a five-game winning streak into play this weekend — thanks to wins over the Furman Paladins, a sweep of ACC foe Boston College and, most recently, a Tuesday night victory over No. 18 Coastal Carolina.
That victory Tuesday marked a transition of sorts for the Tigers — the first game of the second half of the season.
The Tigers are sitting at 23-6 (8-4 ACC) at the halfway point and are in position to once again host a regional game in the NCAA Tournament, according to D1Baseball and Baseball America. But head coach Monte Lee, when asked if this was where he saw this team being at the midpoint of the season, admitted he wasn’t really sure how good this team could be.
"I don't really think about that too much because you really don't know,” Lee said. “Going into this year there was a lot of unknowns based on the fact that we had lost all of our starting pitchers. So we didn't really know what to expect. What we did know is we felt like we had a really good bullpen … We felt good about our club.
“At the halfway point, if you would have said, ‘Would you take 22-6?’ Of course! I think the thing that I have been impressed with our ballclub is that we've won the games that we've been in position to win, and we've won some games that we're not in a position to win. The games that we've lost, we got beat for the most part. We just got beat.
“So our team so far has done a good job of pitching, playing defense, and our offense has been up and down at times - -right now, we're clicking on all cylinders offensively. If we can continue to get better offensively the second half of the year, and we can stay healthy on the mound, we have a chance to be a good second-half team."
A major factor in the Tigers success over the first half of the season has been the balanced production throughout the lineup.
While the team has struggled through the early part of the schedule getting much production out of the bottom half of the order, over the last five games the group that was a liability early in the season has proven to be one of the greatest assets.
"We're getting really good balance at the bottom of the order, and I think that's why you see, over the last five games, our runs have been up there,” Lee said. “We only had six hits (against Coastal Carolina). We had six hits and scored six runs and a lot of that has to do with the fact that we're getting good production out of the bottom of the order. When we flip that lineup back up top, those guys are able to hit with runners in scoring position."
The Tigers travel to South Bend, Ind., this weekend for a three-game series against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-16, 4-8 ACC), beginning Friday (5:05 p.m.) when the Tigers send Jacob Hennessy to the mound to take on Scott Tully. Saturday (2:05 p.m.) Brooks Crawford will get the call for the Tigers, with Tommy Sheehan going for the Fighting Irish. In the series final Sunday (1:05 p.m.) the Tigers will send Jake Higginbotham to face Cameron Junker.
Game-time temperatures are going to be in the low 30s and upper 20s for all three games of the series, which can be seen on the ACC Network Extra.