Clemson won their 10th ACC title and first since 2006 with an excellent weekend of play. The Tigers went undefeated against Virginia, Louisville, Wake Forest, and FSU to claim the title in Coach Monte Lee's first season at Clemson. Now the Tigers wait to see if they will be a national seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Game 1 of the ACC Tournament is always filled with trepidation for me. It seems like Clemson underperforms a bit in in this tournament. Clemson needed a good showing in the tournament to host a Regional and possibly play their way into a national seed. First up was the defending champion Virginia Cavaliers, and Clemson eked out a 5-4 win thanks to a Chase Pinder sacrifice fly in the 9th inning.
Eli White led the way with 3 hits for Clemson and went 3 for 5, while Charlie Barnes, Alex Eubanks, and Pat Krall combined to pitch 9 innings while giving up 4 runs. Shockingly enough Pat Krall actually allowed a run in this game. That may have been the biggest shocker of the game. Once again though Clemson got a little bit lucky, they committed 3 errors in this game, but didn't give up any unearned runs.
After earning some hope in game 1, Clemson had to face Louisville in game 2. The Tigers went early 2000's in this 5-3 win with 4 home runs against Louisville. Clemson was able to take advantage of poor pitching from the normally reliable Brendan McKay to jump out to a lead midway through the game and maintain it. Louisville seemed to leave McKay in too long, but a starter with his talent is usually going to get a chance to pitch himself out of trouble. Clate Schmidt was the MVP of this game. The pitcher went 8 2/3 innings before being pulled with men on base in the 9th. With Clemson playing up to 4 games in 4 days it is impossible to understate how important this performance was for later in the tournament.
To finish out pool play, Clemson entered game 3 against Wake Forest knowing they had to win to advance to Sunday's championship game. Clemson took an early 1-0 lead before Wake Forest had a big inning in the 4th to take a 4-1. Things did not look great for Clemson, but the Tigers continued their success at rebounding from deficits. The Tigers tied the game in the 7th inning, and then things went a little crazy in the 9th.
Seth Beer started things off by getting hit with a pitch before Chris Okey hit a double to put runners on 1st and 3rd. Wake then loaded the bases with an intentional walk and Weston Wilson popped out to give Wake 2 outs. Chris Williams fell behind early with an 0-2 count, but a wild pitch by Wake let pinch-runner K.J. Bryant score from 3rd. Pat Krall pitched the 9th to get the win.
With the win over Wake Forest, Clemson advanced to the championship game against FSU. The Tigers sent Brooks Crawford to the mound against FSU starter Ed Voyles. There was some concern the game would get played because of weather, but the rain let off enough just in time to start the game.
Clemson started well when Chris Okey came up with 2 men on and cracked an absolute shot off the left field wall. From there the FSU defense went slapstick comedy. Only 1 run should have scored, but the initial throw missed the cut off man to allow Seth beer to score, and FSU's attempt to make a throw to the plate led to Okey scoring. A 3-0 lead from two FSU errors gave Clemson an excellent start in the top of the 1st.
Things continued to go poorly for FSU in the 2nd and 3rd. Five runs in the second and again in the 3rd gave Clemson a 13-1 lead. Then the rain showed up for a multiple hour rain delay. The delay didn't help FSU, Clemson scored another 5 runs in the 4th. FSU was able to respond with 4 runs, but that didn't mean much when the score was 18-5 after 4 innings.
After the 4th things settled down for both teams. No one was able to score until the bottom of the 8th when FSU went on a nice spree to make it 18-13. Nothing is ever easy. Then a weather delay at the end of the 8th put things on hold again before the 9th inning started and Clemson was able to clinch the win and the title.
For Clemson the offense was fantastic. Chris Okey, Eli White, Chase Pinder, and Mike Triller were all fantastic. Multiple hits from all coupled with some clutch hitting gave Clemson a large lead early. From there they just had to survive the rest of the game. The Tigers also did well to take advantage of 4 FSU errors. Usually Clemson is the one put in this position,
The pitching on Sunday was ok given the situation. Brooks Crawford went 3 innings and surrendered 5 runs, but Alex Bostic pitched 4 innings in relief and surrendered only 1 hit. The 8th got ugly, but in the end winning the game was the only important thing.
With this title Clemson will certainly host a Regional and may get to be a national seed. Oh and this is Clemson's 10th ACC Championship, not a bad way to start off a new era of Clemson baseball.