A Clemson baseball season that started with so much potential is quickly spiraling downhill.
The Tigers dropped their sixth consecutive game Saturday afternoon at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, falling 5-3 to Duke in Game 2 of the three-game series. The Blue Devils lead the series 2-0 with Game 3 scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m.
The six-game losing streak is the longest for the Tigers under head coach Monte Lee and the longest since Clemson lost six consecutive games in 2013. Clemson (25-14, 11-9) has not won a game since Wednesday, April 10 against Furman.
“A tough day at the ballpark for us, that’s an understatement,” Lee said.
Clemson outhit Duke 10-9 and had plenty of opportunities to put runs on the board, but while the Blue Devils capitalized when they had chances, Clemson did not.
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Logan Davidson before Duke took the lead for good in the fifth. The Blue Devils (23-16, 10-10) had one runner on with two outs when Davidson made a throwing error to extend the inning. Chris Crabtree followed with a two-run double to give Duke a 2-1 lead.
The Blue Devils extended the lead to 5-1 in the following inning, again scoring all of their runs with two outs. Tigers reliever Holt Jones was called for a balk with the bases loaded and two outs to push the lead to 3-1. Michael Rothernberg followed with a two-out, two-run single to push the lead to 5-1.
“It’s one swing of the bat here, it’s one pitch here that’s costing us right now. Obviously we’re on a tough streak right now,” Lee said. “We’ve just got to step up at the plate and swing the bats with runners on base and continue to try to find the answers on the mound... Overall we had more quality at bats than they did, but they found a way to win.”
Sam Hall hit a two-run homer for the Tigers in the ninth inning to cut the deficit to 5-3, but it was too little, too late.
Clemson will try to stop its losing streak on Sunday in the final game of the series. The Tigers were 25-8 (11-4) and alone in second place in the ACC when the skid started. They are currently tied for fifth in the league.
Lee made it clear what he needs to see more of from his team moving forward.
“We’ve got to have some fire. We’ve got to fight our way out of it. It’s really that simple,” he said. “We’ve got to show some fight. We’ve got to show some fire and some energy. I felt like the back half of the game we had some energy and some fire. But we need that from pitch one. We need nine innings of fight and fire and energy in the dugout.”
Senior Brooks Crawford, who allowed two earned runs in five innings of work, expects the leaders on the team to address the lack of energy and emotion in the dugout.
“When something doesn’t go our way we’ve still got to stay up. I feel like that’s what’s been a little bit of our problem lately is something bad happens and we all kind of get down,” Crawford said. “That’s baseball. That happens. You just have to go through it and still stay positive. I think that’s something we’ve got to address.”