NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Jack Leggett never quite had a feel in year No. 21 as Clemson’s head coach.
A preseason top-15 team, characteristic of ample inconsistency – his Tigers (36-25) had their longest winning streaks (6, twice) and losing streaks (4, twice) back-to-back early and then mid-season.
On the brink of missing the NCAA Tournament, Clemson finished the regular season 9-3, rallying in the season finale over Boston College to stay on the bubble.
“I feel like we kind of underachieved,” Clemson ace right-hander Daniel Gossett said. “I felt like we were always really close. We were always right on the brink and it just never happened. It’s disappointing to see a team with so much talent and we’re out after two games in a regional.
“You’d like to think that the season up to the regional – as long as you get in, it doesn’t matter…We just weren’t able to turn it on at the right time.”
Leggett answers for 'little disappointing' season
Taking two in the ACC Tournament – a win over No. 6 Miami sealed the deal on the Music City trip over the weekend, but as the competition-level and stakes increased, Clemson’s numbers show a bit of a nosedive.
Hitting over .300 as a team going into the South Carolina series, their line steadily declined – finishing with a .274 mark at the plate. Against Baseball America top-25 teams, the Tigers averaged 3.2 runs per game, going 3-10.
Clemson averaged 3.3 per game in the postseason (giving up 6.4), which culminated in a 24-5 two-and-out scoring rout delivered by Oregon and Xavier.
The Tigers dropped to 5-10 in NCAA Tourney games since being 27 outs from a CWS title-game appearance in 2010, going 0-5 against teams seeded 1 or 2 in the regional round.
While the early exit stings, Leggett says it’s similar feeling to any season without a championship.
“I’m just a little disappointed that we never really put it all together,” Leggett said. “We never had enough players playing in a rhythm at the same time. Had different things happen to us during the course of the year…It was a combination of everything. As we closed the season, it wasn’t something that jumped out to me every single day.
“I’m hoping the experience of this and motivation of this will be something that will turn into something positive next year.”
The 2015 outlook could depend on this week’s MLB Draft, starting Thursday.
Gossett is expected to go in the first three rounds, while sophomore No. 2 starter Matthew Crownover and catcher Garrett Boulware could join him as potential pros. One Clemson signee is potential first-round pick (infielder Michael Chavis) and another a top-100 prospect (pitcher Austin DeCarr).
With second baseman Steve Wilkerson’s four-year run over, the Tigers lose their 2014 leader in doubles (18), homers (6) and RBI (42). Boulware, a Hanna product, hit over .300 for a second-straight season (.302), totaling 35 RBIs and 20 extra-base hits.
Clemson’s main freshmen contributors both suffered a late-season swoon. Okey nearly led the team wire-to-wire in RBI (41), compiling 20 in his first 16 games before knocking in just two in his final 16. Third baseman Weston Wilson was hitless in his final three contests and 1-for-13 in postseason play.
Outside of Gossett and possibly Crownover, Clemson’s biggest pitching loss is closer Matt Campbell (8 saves/0.84 ERA in 25 appearances).
Regardless of circumstances faced currently or in the near future, the Tigers hall of fame coach is confident the arrow is pointing up.
“I haven’t lost any confidence in anything we do,” said Leggett. “Everybody looks at our program on the outside looking in – five percent of the fanbase is always unhappy about something. The people that know what our baseball program is all about – the people on the outside, those that know college baseball – know that Clemson has a strong, traditional prideful baseball program.”
Meanwhile, Leggett waits to see if Clemson’s athletic administration agrees, meeting with AD Dan Radakovich later this week.
“Well, I hope so,” he said, pausing before repeating, “I hope so.”
"This baseball season did not end as we all had hoped," Radakovich said in a statement Sunday. "I will be speaking with Jack in the next few days to talk about the path ahead for our program. While we again advanced to the NCAA tournament, we can and will look to do more."