Clemson last won the ACC Baseball Tournament Championship back in 2006. After watching Miami, FSU, UNC, GT, and UVA win titles over the past nine years, the Clemson Tigers have fought their way back on top, winning the 2016 conference tournament in Durham, NC, 18-13.
The Clemson Tigers are the reigning ACC Champions in both football and baseball -- putting them atop the conference in two of the league's three major sports in the same academic year. The Tigers last captured both titles in the same academic year back 1988-89. They also accomplished feat in the same calendar year in 1991.
Danny Ford, Clemson's iconic 80's football coach, won double-digit games four times (1981, 1987, 1988, and 1989). His 1987 and 1988 teams really began to hearken back to the former national championship glory (after the probation years). Though the football and baseball programs were winning games and celebrating good times, we know now his time in Clemson would come to an end after 1989 and the Tigers would quickly decline after 1991.
In '91, the football team finished 9-2-1 with wins over ranked NC State and Georgia Tech teams, a tie against Virginia, and losses to Georgia and California in the Citrus Bowl. The championship came under Ken Hatfield and would be succeeded by two championship-less decades.
The 1991 Clemson baseball team went an outrageous 60-10 that season and reached the CWS, but dropped two quick games to Creighton and Long Beach State to bow out of the tournament. They would win the ACC again in '93 and '94, but then face an 11 year drought.
What makes this year's duo of championships so exciting is that the best is yet to come. While athletic programs like Baylor, South Carolina, Tennessee, USC, Texas, Butler, Davidson, and George Mason can serve as a reminder of how quickly success can dissipate, Clemson's winning ways feel very sustainable - built on firm ground.
This football season, Clemson began the season outside of the top 10 and busted their way into the playoff conversation after beating Notre Dame and embarrassing Miami. The football team will almost assuredly begin 2016 ranked in the top 5. Even after the season when the Tigers are hit by key departures on offense, national championship level recruiting should have the Tigers competing for titles.
Similarly in baseball, this year is so much different than 1991. Rather than this championship coming in the last few years of a great coach's tenure (Bill Wilhelm), it is in the first of an exciting new hire. Monte Lee took over a rebuilding team, but with Seth Beer entering the fold (kudos to Jack for the initial recruitment there) and a new, fun attitude on the team they've far exceeded expectations.
In my time as a student at Clemson, the ACC doled out eight football and baseball championships, but not a single one was given to Clemson. Now we've got two in the same year and are still looking ahead, as the future is bright.
For a more detailed discussion of the newly minted ACC Baseball Championship, STS writer Ryan Flinn has more:
Who would've thought we would be ACC champions in baseball in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year under first year head coach Monte Lee? Monte Lee and co. have exceeded expectations all year and managed to claw to a 42-18 record despite inconsistent fielding and young, inconsistent pitching.
Now the Tigers are in a position to be a national seed in the NCAA tournament and are well on their way to be a college baseball national power again.
Offense has been the catalyst all year for Lee's Tigers led by All-ACC catcher and possible MLB first round pick Chris Okey and All-ACC outfielder, ACC freshman of the year, as well as ACC player of the year Seth Beer. Clemson's main offensive catalysts were relatively quiet during the 4-0 run during the ACC tournament. However, the Tigers were able to go undefeated due to two home runs from Reed Rohlman who has hit for a solid average during his time at Clemson but did not hit for a whole lot of power leading up to the ACC tournament. However, the big story of this tournament is the production from fifth year senior outfielder Mike Triller. Triller has played sparingly in his career for the Tigers but managed to hit two home runs during the tournament to lead the Tigers to the ACC title. Performances like these from lesser-used players are how teams win in the postseason in all levels of baseball.
The solid pitching of players such as Charlie Barnes, Clate Schmidt, Pat Krall, Alex Eubanks, and freshman Brooks Crawford were the other big story in this tournament after pitching was a weakness for the Tigers during the regular season.
The hiring of Monte Lee to replace long time head coach Jack Leggett was Athletic Director Dan Radakovich's biggest decision and has already paid major dividends. The success of the football team as well as the forecast for future success here at Clemson has been the big story on campus as it should be but prospects look equally as bright for the present and future of the baseball program. Monte Lee has gotten the most out of the talent that Coach Leggett couldn't in the last few years of his stint here at Clemson. Recruiting has picked up big time for Coach Lee at Clemson. However, the most underrated aspect of the success of this team as well as the future of this program is Lee's hiring of pitching coach Andrew See. Clemson has lacked a good pitching coach the past few years since Kevin O'Sullivan left for Florida but Coach See's influence on this program cannot be understated. The hiring of assistants is paramount to the success of a head coach of any program in sports and Coach Lee so far has hit the right buttons in hiring Andrew See away from Duke and keeping ace-recruiter and Clemson alum Bradley Lecroy on as an assistant coach to help ease the transition. Jack Leggett's hiring of Dan Pepicelli a few years ago as pitching coach was a major key in his dismissal last year and Andrew See has proven to be a major upgrade over Coach Pep.
The big criticism of Jack Leggett's teams over the past few years has been the tendency for his teams to play way too uptight especially in big games. So far in his first year as head coach, Coach Lee has kept his team loose and we're seeing the difference big time in results.