Erik Bakich was hired away from Michigan on June 16, 2022 to become the Clemson baseball coach, just the 4th coach hired by the program since 1958. Bakich had rebuilt Michigan into a Big Ten power, winning two Big Ten tournaments and making it all the way to the College World Series final in 2019. On Sunday, in his first year, Bakich led Clemson to its 11th ACC tournament title and clinched Clemson’s spot as a national seed.
The Tigers had been red hot over the back half of the year, winning 26 of their last 30 heading into Sunday’s championship. Clemson was 2-8 in ACC play after losing to the now top-ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons, and we’re not quite sure what Bakich said to his club after that game but whatever it was, it worked.
Clemson entered the tournament as the 3-seed, paired with Virginia Tech and Boston College, two teams Clemson had beaten already this year. The Tigers breezed past Virginia Tech, 14-5, to force a matchup with Boston College for a chance to move onto the semifinals. The Eagles played Clemson tough as they had done in the regular season, but the Tigers emerged 4-1 winners to advance to a semifinal date with North Carolina.
On Saturday, Clemson did what it had done against the Tar Heels in the regular season: hit, run, score. The Tigers won comfortably, 10-4, and set up a finals date with 4-seed Miami.
After a two-hour delay, action finally got underway and Clemson jumped out to a sizzling 3-0 lead after the first two innings. Miami would strike back quickly, taking a 5-3 lead that lasted until the seventh inning. That’s when Clemson would ultimately turn it around for good. Will Taylor walked, Caden Grice singled and Billy Amick doubled to bring the Tigers within one. From there, with one swing of the bat, Riley Bertram, who had not hit a homer all season, smacked a three-run shot to right-center that put Clemson up 7-5, and they would not look back.
Clemson would score four more runs in the seventh to break open an 11-5 ballgame, a lead the Tigers would not surrender as closer Ryan Ammons shut the door on any potential Miami rallies, striking out the final batter to close the deal and giving Clemson their 16th-straight victory and 11th ACC tournament title.
Clemson looked far and away the best team in the ACC during the tournament. They seemed to just roll through all four opponents they faced. Their performance has earned them a national seed and a regional host. To think this team has won the ACC and will be hosting is remarkable. The job Erik Bakich has done in year one is simply incredible. This is a program that missed the postseason entirely after a tremendous start last year. Now, Bakich and his crew have their eyes set on something that did not seem attainable so early in his tenure: Omaha.
The Tigers will open with Lipscomb on Friday. Two-seed Tennessee and three-seed Charlotte, whom Clemson beat earlier in the season. An ACC title and regional host (and Super Regionals shall they get there) is quite the start to the Bakich era in Tiger Town.