No disrespect to Tom Riginos, who brought a perfectly decent baseball team to Doug Kingsmore Stadium and walked away with a victory, but Clemson can't afford to lose games like the one it dropped Wednesday to Winthrop.
The road ahead is tough. Clemson came into the game at 5-1, showing signs of a contagious spark and looking to build momentum for a big weekend. Winthrop was 2-5, with losses to Maryland-Eastern Shore, The Citadel, Delaware State (twice) and Eastern Kentucky (teams with an average RPI of No. 149).
And if you're thinking about going down the 'looking ahead' road, Jack Leggett is having none of it: "We weren't looking ahead to anybody."
The problem was offensive failure.
To win, the Tigers need to combine good defense (which they played) with strong pitching (which they got, allowing just four hits in 11 innings), supplemented by enough baserunners to keep the offense moving.
Clemson scratched out just six hits - all singles - against Winthrop pitching, and drew just two base-on-balls. They didn't get a hit until two outs in the fifth inning, and they put their leadoff man on base just twice - on a single by freshman Steven Duggar in the sixth and on a base hit by junior Steve Wilkerson to lead off the bottom of the 11th. The Tigers, at that point trailing 3-2, followed Wilkerson's hit with two shallow fly-outs, and, after Wilkerson stole second, left him there when Jay Baum grounded to third to end the game. Wilkerson's stolen base was Clemson's only theft of the game.
"It's tough to win ball games when you can't get men on base," said an obviously distraught Leggett. "We played good defense for the most part, and we pitched well for the most part. But we didn't hit enough to distance ourselves from them, and they played a good game.
"We didn't have enough chances because we didn't have guys on base. When that happens, it's hard to get the running game going."
Leggett said the defense - the Tigers are fielding at a .983 percentage, with just one error by a starting infielder in seven games - has been good enough "to hang our hat on."
"We just have to get better offensively," Leggett said. "Our older guys need to step up a little bit. We need to get some hits and get our leadoff men on base and give ourselves more baserunners. We haven't been able to use our speed offensively as much as I'd like to."