GRICE SHINES ON MOUND AND AT PLATE AGAIN, BUT CLEMSON LOSES BACK-TO-BACK HEARTBREAKERS TO NO.2 WAKE FOREST
- 2023-04-03 02:34:33
CLEMSON, SC - There are no moral victories, but the Tigers have been painfully close to a very impressive first season under Erik Bakich. They won the opener against the Gamecocks, which remains one of their two losses all season, and were a couple innings away from winning the series before the bullpen blew a late 4-run lead. The Tigers should have also won their first two ACC series against Duke and Georgia Tech--maybe even swept the Duke series--but, again, blew late leads with just a few outs to go.
They went toe to toe with No.2 Wake on Thursday night in a very evenly played game except for the 3 HR's by the Deacs. On Friday, the Tigers took a 3-2 lead into the 8th, but a leadoff double, grounder and a sac safety squeeze play tied the game with 2 outs. Lindley hit the leadoff man in the 9th--something that has plagued the Tigers all season, along with walks and HR's--and after a sac bunt moved the runner to 2nd, a single gave Wake the 4-3 lead. In the bottom of the 9th, Jarrell singled with one out, Cannarella singled and stole 2nd with 2 outs, so the Tigers had the tying run on 3rd and winning run at 2nd with Ingle at the plate. Unfortunately, the second baseman made a great play on a tough grounder from Ingle to just get the game-ending out. The one positive is that Clayton was outstanding in middle relief, striking out a career-high 8 while allowing just one run in 4.2 innings. He has really solidified himself as the Tigers' best option out of the pen over his last few outings. However, the Tigers are lacking a dominant closer--something that they've had forever--and that has cost them a win in each of the last 3 ACC series.
The 9th inning on Saturday was deja vu all over again, to quote the great Yogi Berra. Unlike Thursday and Friday, though, the wind was stronger than I've ever seen at Doug Kingsmore, and it was blowing in for most of the game. If it had been blowing like that on Thursday, the Tigers probably would have won the game. And, ironically, it cost the Tigers a couple HR's on Saturday. It was blowing so hard that the pitchers' hats were blown off their heads 3 different times. Grice's hat flew about 50 feet clear into the outfield at one point! Grice was dominant on the mound for the first few innings, striking out the side in the 2nd and 3rd. The Tigers took a 1-0 lead on a 2-out RBI single by Cannarella in the 3rd, but Grice has run into problems this season after 3 or 4 innings. He gave up back-to-back full-count walks in the 4th, followed by a double to give Wake a 2-1 lead. Wake would score in 4 straight innings to take a 5-1 lead in the 8th. Ingle hit a sac fly to make it 5-2 headed to the 9th, but Wake got the run back thanks to an error by Amick at 1st, where Grice should have been playing.
Grice hit a leadoff HR in the 9th, his 7th in 10 games and the only HR of the game, to make it 6-3, and the Tigers weren't done. With the count full and 2 outs, Bertram beat out an infield single, and Amick singled. Jarrell hit a bloop double, scoring 2 to make it 6-5, and the Tigers had the tying run in scoring position. Fellow freshman Cam Cannarella--who hit a walk-off HR a week ago--drew a walk, to put the winning run on1st. Ingle, however, hit a hard line drive right at the left fielder to end the 2-out rally and the game. For the second straight game, the Tigers had the tying and winning runs on base in the 9th. The Deacs also caught some lucky breaks that led to runs, and the Tigers crushed a couple balls that would have been homers on Thursday or Friday, but the wind kept them in the park on Saurday. Wake made just enough plays to win both games, and that's why the Deacs are No.2 in the nation. When you're that good, you also seem to get all the bounces and breaks, and the Tigers just can't seem to get one to go their way in these close games. Incidentally, this was Wake's first sweep of the Tigers since 2012, and that was in Winston-Salem. It's been even longer since it's happened at Doug Kingsmore, but this is the best Wake team in a long, long time.
Again, there are no moral victories, but at least the Tigers know they can play with anyone and put themselves in position to win. They just have to figure out how to win these close games--whether getting outs on the mound or that critical hit in the clutch. Also, keep in mind that the Tigers' best pitcher, Ammons, has been out the last 3 weeks. They would have won both series against Duke and Georgia Tech had he been available, and they would have a win over No.2 Wake as well. Bakich told me that Ammons could be back for the FSU series.
The Tigers host a tough Coastal Carolina team on Tuesday and then travel to FSU for Easter Weekend. Post-game interviews are below!
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