CLEMSON, SC - What a ball game! The Tigers needed to win this one because they let the Duke series slip away (they should have swept), and they have 4 straight road games after this. After Cam Cannarella struck out to lead off the 7th, I posted on the play-by-play that it would be just his 4th hitless game of the season if he did not get another at bat. Well, fortunately for the Tigers, the freshman did get another at bat, and it was a doozy! With the score tied 5-5 in the bottom of the 9th, freshman catcher Jacob Jarrell led off the inning with a walk, the firs time he had reached base in the game. Bakich called for a sac bunt to move the runner into scoring position, and Blackwell laid down a perfect one for a single. With leadoff man Cam Cannarella at the plate and the winning run on 1st, that gave Bakich the option of bunting the runners over to 2nd and 3rd. That would have been the safe call many coaches would have made because it would give them a chance for a sac fly for the tie and two chances at a hit for the win. It would also take away the threat of a double play. However, Bakich was not going to take the bat away from his hottest hitter, even if he was 0-3 on the night. That turned out to be the right decision because Cannarella crushed his 2nd HR of the season just over the fence in dead center. The freshman is now batting .430, and he told me after the game that it was the longest homer he's ever hit! It was the Tigers' second walk-off HR in 8 games.
The Tigers struck first with a sac fly by Grice in the 1st to go up 1-0. He crushed the ball a mile high all the way to the track, which would foreshadow what he did later. Darden wasn't able to hold the lead, giving up the tying run on a wild pitch in the 2nd, followed by a 2-out, 2-run HR to put Winthrop up 3-1. The Tigers tied the game in the 3rd with an RBI single by Taylor and a sac grounder by Wright. However, Corbitt grounded out to strand the bases loaded. The Tigers took a 5-3 lead in the 5th on a 2-run HR by Grice, giving him 3 RBI's in the game. It was his second HR of the season after hitting his first on Saturday. Hopefully we'll start seeing much more of that from him! Unfortunately, the Tigers' pitchers never seem to be able to hold a lead for even an inning. Darden gave up a walk and a 2-run HR to tie the game 5-5 in the 6th. It was the only walk issued by the Tigers in the game and came at a costly time. Bakich clearly felt like he had to stretch Darden because of the struggles by the bullpen. It was jus the second time this season that a starting pitcher went 6 innings for the Tigers! Clayton started the 7th inning and delivered one of the best relief performances we've seen this season, pitching 3 perfect innings with 4 K's, improving to 2-0 on the season. The regular weekend starter from last season told me after the game that he has made the adjustment to the pen and feels more comfortable pitching from the stretch after working with new pitching coach Jimmy Belanger. Hopefully Clayton will become that reliable middle-reliever they've been looking for, but they still need to find a solid closer. It was Ammons last season, but he has been elevated to a weekend starter and has been out with an injury for the past couple weeks. Bakich told me after the game that he is starting to throw lightly, and they hope to have him back as soon as the Wake series or the following week.
The Tigers go to Kennesaw State on Wednesday and then play their first ACC road series at Georgia Tech this weekend. Post-game interviews with Bakich, Cannarella and Clayton are below!
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