DURHAM, NC: Following some early fireworks, a pitcher’s duel broke out between Clemson and Boston College at the ACC Tournament, Friday. Fortunately for the Tigers, Caden Grice and Jack Crighton had provided an early cushion that kept Clemson comfortable on its way to a 4-1 victory over the Eagles.
With the win, the Tigers claimed the last spot in the semifinals and will square off with North Carolina at 5 p.m., Saturday. Wake Forest and Miami (FL) will meet in the other semifinal at 1 p.m., Saturday.
Grice landed the biggest blow offensively, smashing a first-inning two-run homer down the right field line to give Clemson an early advantage. Jack Crighton drove home another pair with a second-inning double. That was more than enough for a Tigers staff that was on its game, Friday. Austin Gordon (2-4, 4.10) got the start and overpowered the Eagles for six innings. BC hitters were consistently late against Gordon’s fastball and mustered just two hits against the Clemson sophomore.
After touching up starter Chris Flynn for four runs in the first two frames, the Tigers were unable to put the game away as the Eagles got 5.2 strong innings from righthander John West in a rare relief appearance. West retired 17 of the 19 batters he faced and yielded just one hit. West also had success his last time out against Clemson, as he surrendered just one run in six innings in BC’s 3-1 victory over the Tigers on April 28th. That’s the last time Clemson tasted defeat, rattling off 14 straight wins since that setback in Brighton, Mass.
Boston College head coach Mike Gambino had plenty of praise for Clemson following the game, “There’s length, speed and power. They’re scary all the way through. The rotation is solid and you see the arms coming out of the bullpen. It’s tough to see any holes and there’s toughness. They’ve taken on Erik’s (Backich) personality.”
One of the bullpen arms Gambino was referencing is Nick Clayton, who tossed another scoreless inning to lower his ERA to 2.66.
For their part, the Eagles didn’t quit and mounted a late rally, even bringing the tying run to the plate in the ninth. Nick Wang launched a home run over the 30-foot wall and famous “Win a Steak Bull” in left field for BC’s first run. The next two batters reached, prompting Erik Bakich to call upon Ryan Ammons. Ammons slammed the door and ushered Clemson into the semifinals.
The Tigers already have ten ACC Tournament championships, the most for any school. UNC, Clemson’s opponent Saturday, is tied for third with eight titles. Bakich shared that Caden Grice will get the start on the mound against the Tar Heels.
Erik Bakich, Austin Gordon
and Caden Grice postgame
ACC Championship update (see bracket here)
Semifinal no. 1 Wake Forest vs. Miami (FL) 1 p.m., Saturday
Semifinal no. 2 UNC vs. Clemson 5 p.m., Saturday