NO.5 CLEMSON LEANS ON PITCHING AND DEFENSE TO BEAT NO.14 BOSTON COLLEGE 4-1 FOR 14TH STRAIGHT WIN, ADVANCING TO ACC SEMIFINAL
- 2023-05-26 17:55:09
DURHAM, NC - After dispatching the Hokies with ease 14-5 on Wednesday, the Tigers faced RPI No.14 Boston College, who they beat 2 of 3 in Chestnut Hill a month ago, with the winner advancing to the ACC Semifinal. Ironically, BC was the last team to beat the Tigers in a 3-1 game! Saturday starter Austin Gordon was the Tigers' pitcher in that game, so I was expecting Friday starter Ethan Darden to be on the mound for this one, but Bakich decided to go with Gordon. It was clearly the right decision because Gordon delivered his best performance of the season, allowing just 2 hits in 6 scoreless innings! It seems like every decision Bakich has made lately has come up roses, and that's how you win 14 straight games. The Eagles' starting pitcher in that 3-1 win over the Tigers was John West, so I wrote on Wednesday night that I expected him to be on the mound in this game. However, the Eagles gave the nod to Sunday starter Chris Flynn, who gave up 6 hits, 5 walks and 4 runs in 5 innings against the Tigers in that regular season series. It's a good thing the Eagles didn't do what I expected because West came out of the bullpen and mowed down the Tigers just like he did a month ago, allowing just one hit and one walk in 5.2 scoreless innings with 7 K's! In fact, he retired the first 12 batters he faced. It probably would have been a completely different game if he had started like I predicted.
The Tigers struck quickly in the 1st when Cannarella hit a leadoff double. Grice hit a 2-out HR to put the Tigers up 2-0. It was Grice's team-leading 16th HR of the season, second of the tournament, and 4th in 5 games--all of them coming with 2 outs. In fact, he has hit the same 2-out, 2-run HR in the 1st inning in 3 of the last 5 games!
The Tigers struck again in the 2nd inning. After Bertram and Blackwell each walked on 4 pitches, they stole 2nd and 3rd with one out on a double steal. That's Bakich ball for you! Crighton, who Bakich wisely inserted into the lineup, hit a 2-run double to make it 4-0. Crighton is an interesting story. He was expected to be a regular starter at the beginning of the season, but he didn't post a hit from the 3rd game of the season on February 19th until the Louisville series on May 5. His average was .077 at one point! However, he has found his swing of late, taking advantage of his opportunities and is now batting a respectable .268 with some big hits like the one he had today. In fact, he has hit safely in his last 5 straight appearances, going 6-13 over that stretch, including 2-3 today.
As I've said many times before, they ordinarily don't score many runs when Gordon is pitching for whatever reason. That's why he only has a 2-4 record with several no-decisions. It appeared that this game would be the exception early, but as mentioned, West came in from the pen and shut the Tigers' offense down for the rest of the game. Fortunately, the Tigers' pitchers were equal to the task! Clayton started the 7th and went 1-2-3 with 2 strikeouts. Hughes started the 8th, and after a grounder and a K for the first two outs, he seemed to tweak his back and gave up a 4-pitch walk. Garris came in from the pen and got a strikeout looking to end the inning. The 9th got a little dicey after Cannarella made a homerun-saving catch for the second out. Garris gave up a HR to blow the shutout, hit the next batter on the first pitch and then gave up a full-count walk to bring the tying run to the plate with 2 outs. Fortunately, Ammons came in from the pen and got a strikeout swinging on 3 pitches!
The incendiary Tigers have won 14 straight games and 19 of 20! They will face UNC, who they swept last week, in the ACC Semifinal on Saturday at 1:00. Bakich told us after the game that Sunday starter Caden Grice would be on the mound. It would have been nice to save Grice for the ACC Championship on Sunday against, presumably, No.1 Wake Forest, but since it's win or go home, Bakich is putting his ace on the mound against the Heels, who upset No.6 UVA 10-2 on Thursday. Grice allowed just 4 hits, 2 walks and one run with 9 K's in 7.1 innings, a career-long, last week against the Heels. It's probably going to feel like a home game for the Heels, just 10 miles away from their campus! Hopefully there will be a decent amount of orange in the stands as well.
***NOTE: The ACC moved Saturday's Semifinal between Clemson and UNC to 1:00 due to weather****
Highlights and post-game interviews are below. There is no video for the interviews because the ACC had technical difficulties with Zoom, but there is audio. Sorry about that!
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