MAT CLARK STEALS THE SHOW, JUST MISSES PERFECT GAME IN 7-1 ACC TOURNAMENT ROUT OF NO.7 LOUISVILLE
- 2019-05-24 12:15:12
Many eyes were on No.7 Louisville's Reid Detmers, the ACC PItcher of the Year who led the conference in wins, ERA and strike outs, but it was the Tigers' Mat Clark who would steal the show with a brilliant performance. It's a crying shame Clark (9-2) was just 5 outs away from perfection and didn't even come away with a shutout or a complete game, but what an effort! The dominant win bodes very well for the Tigers, who have played their way into the NCAA Tournament in my opinion. That's 3 wins in 4 games against No.7 Louisville, and they should have won all 4. They had a chance to win with a sac bunt in the 9th but lost in 11 innings on Sunday in Clemson. The Tigers also swept UNC and went 20 innings in a 3-2 loss at No.4 UGA. The Tigers are now 9-7 against ranked teams this season. They are also an explosive offensive team, tied for 5th in the Power Five in HR's, and the Selection Committee will like that.
Wilkie had a big game with a double, HR and 3 RBI's--all with 2 outs--and Justin Hawkins hit a 3-run HR, his 4th of the season.
I expect the Tigers to be a 3 seed, perhaps in Athens. Be sure to tune in here on Monday because I'll have the news from the Selection Show posted right here!
Post-game press conference with Monte Lee, Mat Clark, Kyle Wilkie and Justin Hawkins is below!
MONTE LEE: Well, tremendous win for our program. I think we all knew going into this game how big this game was for us, and couldn't have asked for a better start than we got out of Mat Clark, one of the best starts I've ever witnessed in my career as a coach. So he put our team, our program on his shoulders today against one of the best teams in the country, the ACC champion, and won the game for us.
Offensively we were outstanding today against the best starting pitcher in our league in Detmers. Third inning, Wilkie's at-bat was huge. We had the bases loaded with Byrd up with one out and Detmers does what Detmers does. He threw two fastballs inside and jammed him, and we got to two outs, and there's a reason why Kyle Wilkie hits in the 4 hole in our lineup, because he's one of the best hitters that we have had in this program over the last few years with runners in scoring position. He's come up with clutch hit after clutch hit, and that was certainly one there; he hit the double off the wall to give us a two-run lead.
Justin Hawkins is a tremendous matchup versus left-handed pitchers and got a pitch up in the zone with two guys on. He's got monster power; been saying it ever since he's been here. When he gets good pitches to hit, he can hit them as long as anybody, and he certainly crushed that pitch for a three-run homer.
Jordan Greene's at-bat in the fifth was huge, another two-out single RBI. Had a great day for us today. He made an unbelievable play on the ball hit over his head, and then Wilkie again in the seventh with a two-out home run to tack on to the lead. And quite honestly, again, Mat pitched an amazing ballgame today, and our defense was outstanding, outside of the comebacker that hit him. I don't know why we threw the ball with an underhand flip, why we didn't just pick it up and just throw it over there. Maybe you were surprised that you got hit. But anyhow, it was a great defensive game for us today. Mat was outstanding.
Hennessy pitched out of a tough spot again, had a couple guys on base. Big strikeout to Fitzgerald, was able to hold on right there and win the game, and just really proud of our guys today, how they stepped up in a crucial game for us.
Q. Mat, talk us through it, man. What was going on in the dugout? Was everybody trying to avoid you?
MAT CLARK: Yeah, throughout the entire game, nobody ever really talks to me during my outings, that's just kind of how it is. But on the field, it just kind of felt like any other outing. I was just trying to stay aggressive and get ahead early.
Q. Mat, at what point did you realize you were having a pretty special day, and did the thought of a no-hitter and perfect game start creeping in?
MAT CLARK: Probably around the fifth inning. You just kind of know as a pitcher, okay, nobody has gotten a hit yet today. I mean, you just stay aggressive and let the defense make plays behind me.
Q. What did you think of the job your defense did today, in particular that play by Jordan that Coach referenced?
MAT CLARK: They're big-time. They've been big-time all year behind me. They just give me the confidence every single weekend to go out there and throw strikes.
Q. Kyle, what were you doing to keep him calm and calling the game?
KYLE WILKIE: Well, I've got to give a lot of credit to him and then Coach C for -- Coach C does a good job of calling pitches. I didn't have to do a lot today. I just put my glove there and didn't have to move it. I mean, this guy is just an absolute stud. If we wanted a fastball on the plate, he threw it on the plate. If we wanted it off, he threw it off. Whatever we wanted, he was throwing it.
Just credit to him and our defense and our -- and Coach C for the performance today. Just a great job.
Q. Coach, what do you think has been the key to Mat's development from -- I don't know if situational lefty is fair to say early in his career, but to where he is now where he can come out and have a performance like this in the ACC Tournament against a team like Louisville?
MONTE LEE: It's funny, I have a long history with Mat. The first time I saw Mat pitch, he was in the eighth grade, pitching for Hilton Head High School, and he was just a strike-throwing machine, just this little lefty that just could throw it where he wanted to, and I actually recruited him at the College of Charleston and he was actually coming to the College of Charleston until I got the job at Clemson, and I knew even when I was at the College of Charleston that he really wanted to go to Clemson. He kept putting me off and putting me off, waiting to see if Clemson would recruit him, and finally he gave in and committed, and then when I got the job here, it was a transition that he made, and I certainly wanted him to come pitch for us.
But he's done it his whole life. Quite honestly, the progression -- the only thing that's really progressed is he's gotten older and stronger, but he's always been the same guy. The one thing that I will say, his changeup has gotten better. I used to tell him even in high school, you've got to come up with a changeup, otherwise you're going to be a bullpen guy. He's come up with that third pitch, even though doesn't have to throw it a lot because his fastball is so good and it's so deceptive. He's not a guy that you can go to the ballpark and put the radar gun up on because even when he's -- he's been 82, 84 in starts this year and dominated.
So I feel like his velocity has crept up, especially this year. He had Tommy John his first year in the program, and he's just gotten -- I wouldn't say he's gotten better. He's always been good. He really has. He's the same guy that I've been watching since high school. Again, he's just gotten bigger and stronger and he's a winner. He always has been, and he always will be.
Q. I went back and checked the stats after the game; you did not go past a two-ball count until the walk in the eighth. Was that the best command and placement you had this season or maybe in your career?
MAT CLARK: Yeah. I mean, in the bullpen today I kind of had like a shaky warmup session, like I wasn't really throwing many strikes. But then something just clicked on the mound and I was able to locate all my pitches. A couple weeks, past couple weeks, I haven't had that kind of command. Like my walk numbers were up a little bit the past couple weeks. But it felt good today locating all my pitches today.
Q. Justin, what is it for you guys this year against Detmers that you guys have just been able to hit off of him? Nobody else has. I think his ERA is nine versus y'all and two versus everybody else in the conference.
JUSTIN HAWKINS: First off, I'd like to say it was an amazing win by the boys today, and also hats off to Louisville's staff. They've been really good this year, and they got ahead of us a lot in the game. But no, I think as our lineup goes on throughout the season, I think we've just learned to hit lefties a little bit better.
Q. Throughout the game could either of you sense some frustration from the Louisville batters or a change in their demeanor when they came to the plate?
MAT CLARK: I mean, I just try to keep like every opponent the same, like mentally. I'm going to go at them. I'm going to try to get ahead early, and so I mean, they're an aggressive team. They like to swing the bat, and I just tried to stay aggressive, throw strikes, let my defense make plays behind me.
KYLE WILKIE: Yeah, throughout the game, you can kind of sense, once you get to the fourth or the fifth that you kind of -- our offense has done it, too, where we may not be swinging the bats well, and then you start kind of trying to push for things or swinging out of the zone or whatever it is, you're trying to get hits and trying to get runs. So you can just kind of tell as the lineup goes that they're really trying to get hits, and he just did a great job and kept them off balance.
Q. Monte, it looked like you gave a pretty good fist bump after the final out. What do you feel like this win does for you guys, and how big was this today?
MONTE LEE: Well, I certainly think that we're in now. I think if you look at our record, thanks to Brian Hennessy, the best SID in the country who provides all of us with a lot of great information, he really does, so first off, I want to give him credit amongst his peers because he certainly deserves it. He works harder than anybody I've ever been around in sports information.
We're sitting at 36 in the RPI, so with this win today, that jumps us in the top 40 in the RPI. We're 3-1 this year against the ACC champion. We're 9-7 versus the top 25 this year, okay. All of those teams are in the top 16 in the country ranked right now. And we are 8-7 versus top-20 RPI teams.
So I certainly think that we are a team that will be in the field of 64, and again, it was just a tremendous performance today by our team. I've been saying it all year long, we've got a good team. We've been through a lot of highs, we've been through some lows, but at the end of the day, I think this win certainly solidifies us in the field of 64, and it's a brand new season for us moving forward.
Q. Monte, is this the best combined you've seen both pitching and hitting coming together at the same time this year?
MONTE LEE: Oh, man. I don't know. It's just a -- of the games that we've played this year, this is our best performance for sure. I can't think back to a game where I feel like we pitched, played defense and swing the bats against this quality of a ballclub this well. Again, you're facing Detmers. I mean, Detmers has, I think -- and I'm probably wrong here, but like 83 innings with 54 hits given up and 138 strikeouts, and we swung the bats like that today. That says a lot about our team that we were certainly capable of hitting the best arms in the country.
And again, Louisville's offense has gotten better and better. They're a better offensive club right now than they were when we played them earlier in the year statistically, and we shut them down behind Mat Clark. Mat Clark shut them down. I mean, he did it, and our defense was outstanding. So again, I thought it was the most complete game that we've played of the year in the biggest moment that we needed our best game of the year.
Q. Coach, you said before yesterday's practice you were going to get after it, it would be intense. Did you see that in the focus today out there?
MONTE LEE: Yeah, you know what, what I saw today was a team that was pretty loose and very confident going into the ballgame. I tried to be as relaxed as I could be. I feel like I've been on pins and needles and intense for the last month, so I honestly said maybe five words the whole game. I literally just said, you know what, this game is in the hands of our players. There's nothing that I can do at this point to try to get them to play their best basketball. It's up to them. So this game today was really about them. It had absolutely nothing to do with me. I literally just sat there and watched the game.
And that's one of the things that you learn at the end of the day as a coach. You do make an impact on your guys, but at the end of the day when the lights cut on or in this case when Mat Clark toed the rubber, he put our team on his shoulders, we swung the bats well, we played good defense today, and we played like the team that I know we can be and we have been for a good portion of this season. So hopefully we can carry some good positive momentum into next week.
Q. It seems that Jordan and Jacob have maybe given you guys a little spark here lately; what have they meant maybe not playing as much early in the season and now coming on late and playing well?
MONTE LEE: Well, they're seniors. They're older players, and Jordan is a graduate, and Jayhawk is a fifth-year senior. Those guys have paid their dues, and it's been up and down, been frustrating for them individually for sure over the course of the year as far as being in and out of the lineup. Jayhawk, when we put him in there we left him in there ever since, and he certainly deserves it. So I'm happy for them and I'm proud of them with how they've played down the stretch here and how they played today. We played like a veteran team today, and we had a little bit more of a veteran presence on the field with those guys on the field. So very proud of how those guys performed today and how they've been playing down the stretch.
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