The Clemson Tigers pushed Vanderbilt to the brink of elimination last year in the NCAA regionals, but failed to get to the decisive game Sunday, as the Commodores blasted themselves to the Super Regionals with an 19-6 win.
Vanderbilt tied an NCAA Tournament record with nine home runs in the game as Regional MVP Connor Kaiser hit three home runs including a grand slam with 10 runs batted in (also tying an NCAA Tournament record). Philip Clarke & Stephen Scott added two solo home runs apiece as Clemson ran out of quality pitching by their fourth game of the tournament.
The Tigers had an ambitious turnaround after beating St. John’s earlier in the day, 9-8, but left themselves with limited options for the nightcap.
In the last two games, Clemson starting pitchers failed to make it past one out in the third, as Jacob Hennessy (vs. St. John’s) and Spencer Strider (vs. Vanderbilt) made things untenable for their bullpen. In Clemson’s first matchup with Vanderbilt Saturday, Jake Higginbotham lasted just 3 and 1/3 innings as the Tigers used three pitchers including Carson Spiers (2 and 2/3 innings) to keep things close.
Ryan Miller, who Clemson Head Coach Monte Lee called “the best pitcher I’ve ever coached”, turned in a stellar effort with 5 and 2/3 relief innings against St. John’s to get the Tigers to Sunday evening, but the Tigers had spent all of their more experienced arms by that point.
Vanderbilt came out swinging early as Strider surrendered a home run to Scott, the second batter of the game. The Commodores plated four in the third, one in the fifth and five in the sixth to put the game out of reach.
The closest Clemson came to rally was in the fifth, after Kier Meredith drew a bases-loaded hit by pitch to make the score 6-3, with Logan Davidson and Seth Beer due to hit with one out. Davidson, however, struck out swinging, and Beer flew out to center field.
Clemson’s most-prized MLB prospect had a feast-or-famine weekend, as opposing pitchers held Beer to 2-for-17 swinging the bat, with both hits ending up as solo home runs.
Lee addressed the media following the game, after dropping a host regional for the third consecutive season:
Clemson Head Coach Monte Lee
Clemson finishes the season at 47-16, while Vanderbilt advances to the Super Regionals for the second straight season, both at the expense of the Tigers.