No matter what happened between Virginia Tech and Clemson, Wednesday, the Tigers were assured of a showdown against Boston College and a chance to advance to the semifinals of the ACC Championship in Durham, NC. But instead of playing with apathy, Clemson showcased energy, grit and tenacity in a 14-5 victory over Virginia Tech for its 13th straight win.
Head coach Erik Bakich lamented the odd circumstances created by the ACC Championship’s pool play format in a pregame conversation with SportsTalk’s Chris Burgin. Bakich would prefer to adopt the double-elimination model in line with the NCAA Regionals. He has a point. The next couple of days will feature several games that have no impact on which teams will advance to the single-elimination semifinals. The matchup between Clemson and Virginia Tech was such a game. But the Tigers also had a winning streak to defend and momentum to maintain.
The Hokies struck first with an RBI triple from Carson DeMartini (2-4, 3 RBI’s). Clemson tied it up in the second when Benjamin Blackwell drove home his double-play partner Riley Bertram (3-5, 2 RBI’s) with an RBI single. The two clubs exchanged the lead twice more and VT entered the sixth with a 5-3 advantage. Despite giving up a pair of singles, Hokies starter Drue Hackenberg should have escaped the frame unscathed. With two outs and two runners aboard, Jacob Jarrell lifted a popup into shallow left field. A play that could have been handled by either the left fielder or the shortstop was caught by neither after some miscommunication. The error resulted in two Tigers runs and a tie game.
Visibly deflated by the gaffe, Hackenberg next engaged in a 13-pitch duel with Clemson leadoff hitter Cam Cannarella. On the 13th pitch of the at-bat, Hackenberg’s 109th pitch of the night, Cannarella roped a line drive into center field to drive in another run and give the Tigers a 6-5 lead. Hackenberg was lifted and forced to watch from the dugout as it went from bad to worse for the Hokies.
Cooper Ingle (2-6, 3 runs) laid down a bunt single and Will Taylor (1-2, RBI) was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Clemson thumper Caden Grice. After working the count in his favor, Grice unloaded on a 3-1 fastball, depositing it into the seats for a grand slam to give Clemson a 10-5 lead. It was the third slam of the season for Grice, which sets a new school record. Billy Amick (.432) stayed hot, finishing 3-for-5 with two RBI’s.
Bakich utilized seven pitchers, none of whom threw more than 35 pitches. With a day off between contests, the Tigers bullpen should be rested and ready for Boston College. BC and Clemson will meet at 11 a.m., Friday, with a spot in the ACC Championship semifinals on the line.
Erik Bakich and Caden Grice postgame
ACC Championship update (see bracket here)
Pool A will be decided when Wake Forest and Pittsburgh meet at 11 a.m., Thursday
Pool B will be decided when Virginia and North Carolina meet at 3 p.m., Thursday
Pool C will be decided when Clemson and Boston College meet at 11 a.m., Friday
Pool D will be decided when Miami (FL) and NC State meet at 7 p.m., Thursday
Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Duke and Notre Dame cannot advance