Photos by Clemson Athletics
DURHAM, NC: Clemson wasted little time in exerting its dominance over North Carolina and punching its ticket to the ACC Championship Game. The Tigers’ lineup blistered UNC pitching early, putting up eight runs in the first three innings on their way to a 10-4 victory, Saturday.
It would be tough to pick which of Clemson’s players had the most impact on Saturday’s win. Is it the red-hot Billy Amick who homered off the “Hit Bull-Win Steak” sign and tripled, driving in four runs? Is it sparkplug Cam Cannarella, who finished with two triples and two RBI’s? How about Cooper Ingle? Ingle fouled a ball off his knee and was forced to leave the game moments later. But not before he finished the at-bat with his third hit, limping up the muddy first-base line as Cannarella trotted home with Clemson’s eighth score. Two-way standout, Caden Grice (8-1, 3.25) has a case, too, producing on the mound and at the plate. Grice doubled in the first two runs and punched out nine Tar Heels over 7.0 innings of work.
Whoever gets top billing, it’s clear this is a different team than the one that dropped eight of its first ten conference games. The Tigers have won 15 straight and find themselves on the verge of being named one of the top eight national seeds for the NCAA Tournament.
The quality starts turned out by Austin Gordon and Caden Grice means head coach Erik Bakich has only needed to use his bullpen arms sparingly since Wednesday. Freshman lefthander Ethan Darden (3-2, 5.47) is expected to start the ACC Championship Game and Clemson’s top relievers will all be available.
Bakich didn’t have an update on Ingle’s condition immediately following the game, “He’s icing it right now, trying to prevent swelling and hopefully, he’ll be good to go.”
While Clemson was working its way past UNC at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Miami (FL) and top-seeded Wake Forest were settling the other semifinal about 20 minutes away at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill, NC. The Hurricanes came out on top, 7-2, setting up a showdown between the Tigers and the Hurricanes. The ACC made the decision to play the semifinal games concurrently to mitigate the chance of weather delays. The strategy worked as both games were completed, albeit under very wet conditions. The final game will pit two of the sport’s hottest teams. Clemson has won 20 of 21 and Miami (FL) has won 10 of 12.
Clemson (42-17) will be trying to claim its 11th ACC Tournament title and first since 2016. Miami (FL) (40-18) will be vying for its second title after winning the championship in 2008. First pitch is scheduled for noon, Sunday, although the looming weather may yet be a factor in the start time.