Story by Matt Smith

Monte Lee (File)

Clemson needed a quality start from lefthander Mat Clark to open its final conference series Thursday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Clark delivered by rolling through Wake Forest for 6 2/3 innings and improving to 8-2. The Tigers (32-22, 14-14) broke their tie with the Demon Deacons in the ACC standings with the victory.

Wake did plate three runs on Clark’s watch, but none of the runs were earned, which lowered his ERA to 3.06. Carson Spiers made Clark’s brilliant outing stand up with a two-inning save.

Clemson’s offense did just enough behind home runs from Grayson Byrd and Bryar Hawkins. It was Byrd’s 13th home run of the season and 8th in the last 11 games. After Hawkins’ long ball made it 2-0 in the 2nd inning, the Tigers manufactured a pair of runs in the home half of the 5th on a sacrifice fly from Logan Davidson and a safety squeeze executed by Kyle Wilkie.

But Wake Forest managed to chip away at the four-run deficit by taking advantage of Clemson miscues and delivering a key two-run single in the 7th inning to trim the lead to a single run. Spiers doused the flames on the Deacons’ rally by fanning Michael Ludowig with the bases loaded. The home crowd roared and the Tigers rode the momentum to the finish.

The big-game feel was acknowledged by Coach Lee, “We needed to win a game like this, you know, here at home. It felt like a Friday night game, I know it’s a Thursday night, but it felt like Game 1 of a series. Who can situational hit? We showed we can do that in the fifth. And which bullpen does a better job? I thought Carson (Spiers) certainly did that for us and we made some great plays on the infield to help us win that ballgame.”

Game 2 of the series at Doug Kingsmore Stadium is Friday night at 6 pm. RHP Davis Sharp (6-3, 2.85 ERA) will start for Clemson and Wake Forest will counter with LHP Jared Shuster (4-3, 6.27 ERA).