North Carolina 33-18 (14-11) at Clemson 36-17 (17-10)
Thursday: 6pm (ACCNX)
Friday: 6pm (ACCNX)
Saturday: 1pm (ACCN)
The Tigers wrap up the regular season with an ACC series that starts a day early and runs Thursday through Saturday — weather permitting.
After a poor start that led most to write off this season as a “year zero” rebuild and bemoan how Coach Lee “left the cupboard bare,” the Tigers have played exceptional baseball and will almost certainly make the NCAA tournament. The only question is if they will host a regional and perhaps even a Super Regional.
There are many reasons the team made such a huge turnaround, but two of the big ones are the improved play of 1B/SP Caden Grice and 1B/DH Billy Amick. Grice didn’t start the year in the weekend rotation, but once Coach Bakich inserted him as the regular Sunday starter, things started clicking (Jay Dill was the original Sunday starter). He has a 6-1 record and had amassed a team-high 55 innings pitched. His 73 strikeouts are nearly double any other Tiger pitcher. His 3.60 ERA and .204 batting average against highlight his success on the mound.
With Grice spending Sundays on the mound, it opened up first base once a week. Billy Amick took advantage and eventually carved himself out a role as the DH on the other days. Although he didn’t begin the season as a starter, he is now hitting a robust .422 over 128 at bats. He is second on the team with 10 home runs despite being 8th on the team in at bats. His 46 RBI are also good for second on the team. Of course, the team leader in both HR and RBI is Caden Grice. Grice has 12 home runs and 49 RBI.
Clemson is currently second in the ACC, an amazing turnaround after a 2-8 start to ACC play. They won’t catch the No. 1 in the nation Wake Forest Demon Deacons, but Virginia and Miami trail the Tigers by just one game, each with 16 wins to the Tigers 17. That makes this weekend series against the Tar Heels big for ACC tournament seeding.
Since the series is moved up by a day, the starters will most likely just shift a day with Ethan Darden on Thursday, Austin Gordon on Friday, and Caden Grice on Saturday. There is a little rain in the forecast which could cause additional changes as well. UNC swept NC State last weekend. Their lineup is headlined by clean-up hitter Mac Horvath who has a whopping 21 home runs. It won’t be easy, but the Tigers seem unstoppable right now.