Tigers win series 2 games to 1!
The Clemson Tigers earned a series win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Sunday following their 6-4 win in the rubber match. It is their second consecutive conference series win, as well as their second conference series win of the season.
Coming into this series, Clemson fans were unsure whether their team’s recent hot streak was a testament to improved play, or if it should instead be credited to the weaker competition faced.
This series would answer that question, as Notre Dame’s team would be the most competitive team they’d play during their turnaround.
Game 1: Notre Dame wins 10-4
Believe it or not, in the early goings, it looked like Clemson might’ve been poised to win this one. Starter Ethan Darden retired six of the first seven batters he faced, and the Tiger’s offense was able to get to Jack Denneis early, totaling five hits through the first two innings. They even took the early lead, earning two runs in the 2nd by way of an Ingle sac-fly and a Taylor RBI single.
But this lead would be short lived. The wheels fell off for Darden in the third, as all five of Notre Dame’s batters he faced would reach base, allowing the Irish to tie the game. Bakich promptly pulled his starter and replaced him with Garris, though the reliever endured similar results.
Back-to-back RBI hits by Coetzee and Martinez would add three additional runs to their total. Garris would strike out Jefferson to record the first out of the inning, but a throwing error would allow a sixth run to come home for the Irish.
The inning would mercifully come to an end on a fly out and a foul pop up, but the damage was done. The Irish took the 6-2 lead and didn’t look back.
A two run homer by Willaims in the 5th would pad that advantage. Clemson would try to get back in it, scoring a run in both the 7th and 8th innings, but a 2 run double by Coetzee in the top of the eighth would prevent any late game Tiger rallies from causing the Irish any real concern.
While the 6-run 3rd inning ultimately cost the Tigers the game, they had their opportunities to get back in the game. Clemson would put runners on base in all except one inning, but failed to find those big hits to bring them in. Credit Notre Dame starter Dennies and their bullpen for making clutch pitches when it mattered, stranding a total of 12 Clemson runners on base in the game.
Notre Dame would enjoy the 10-4 win, and take the early lead in the series.
POTG: Brooks Coetzee III; 3-5, 3 RBI, 1R
Game 2: Tigers bounce back to win 5-1
Saturday was a very nostalgic day for Tiger baseball, as Clemson retired jersey no. 7 in honor of coaching legend Jack Leggett. In classic form, the former head coach turned in the lineup card, before sliding into the grass, welcomed by the mob of players cheering the Clemson great.
Inspired by the pregame ceremony, the Tigers took the field looking to tie this series up.
In the bottom of the first, a ground out by Taylor scored Canarella for the first run of the game. Though the Irish would tie the game in the top of the second–an error would allow Coetzee to score an unearned run–the Tigers would take the lead back in the bottom half of the inning by way of an Amick home run.
A Blackwell single, followed by back-to-back RBI doubles by Canerella and Ingle, would add an additional two runs to the Tiger’s tally.
Clemson would tack on another run in 3rd on an RBI single by Bertram. The five run total would be all the Tigers needed to get the win over the Irish on Saturday.
The early offensive outburst was complemented by an excellent pitching performance by Austin Gordon. In 6.1 innings of work, Gordon allowed only 4 hits and 0 earned runs. Tristan Smith and Nick Clayton both pitched well out of the bullpen, only allowing a single base knock in a combined 2.2 innings of relief.
The complete showing for the Tigers earned them the win and tied the series at a game apiece. Both teams would have the opportunity to win the series going into the Sunday showdown.
POTG: Austin Gordan; 6.1 IP, 4 H, 1R, 0 ER, 4 Ks, 0 BB
Game 3: Tigers Win the Series in a 6-4 Slugfest
For the first time in this series, fans were treated to a truly competitive contest.
Scoring began early for both lineups on Sunday. In the top of the first, Coetzee doubled to chase home Prajzner to give Notre Dame the first run of the game. The Tigers would tie it in the bottom half of the inning however, as an RBI single by Taylor brought home Cannarella to knot the game at a run a piece.
In the second, a fielding error by Wright allowed Moreno to score an unearned run, once again giving the Irish a one run lead. Clemson would continue to counter though, as a double by Bissetta allowed Amick to score and Bertram to advance to third. Bertram would come home in the next at-bat, as a Canerella groundout would give Clemson a 3-2 lead.
Notre Dame would threaten again in the top of the third, loading the bases with only a single out. However, clutch pitching by Caden Grice would retire the next two batters, putting up the game’s first scoreless frame and maintaining the Tiger’s one run lead. In the bottom half of the inning, Hely would strike out two batters en route to the game’s first one-two-three inning.
After hitting Putz with a pitch in the 5th, Grice would be pulled and replaced by Weiss. His outing began with a rocky start, hitting the first two batters he faced, loading the bases with only one out. Kmet would then lay down a sac-bunt to score Putz, and, though Moreno would ground out in the next at-bat to end the inning, the Irish had again tied the game.
The Tigers would take the lead right back, however. A leadoff double by Ingle would give the Tigers a runner on second to start the bottom of the 5th. A fielding error by the Irish would allow Taylor to reach and Ingle to advance to third. A deep sac-fly to left by Grice would let Ingle to tag and score, giving the Tigers the lead once again.
Notre Dame would strike back, as a walk by Putz and a single by Coetzee would give the Irish two on with no one out. A sac-bunt by Juaire would advance both runners. Kmet attempted another bunt on the next pitch, though the attempt went foul. The batter would be retired on just three pitches. While Clayton would also strike out Moreno to eventually end the inning, a wild pitch would allow Putz to come home and score, tying the game again at 4 runs a piece.
Clemson would have an opportunity to take the lead again in the bottom of the seventh. A single by Taylor, followed by a stolen base, brought up the heart of the Clemson lineup with a runner in scoring position. Birkholz would rebound, however, striking out both Grice and Wright. Amick, however, would deliver, ripping a double to right center, plating Taylor and giving the Tigers the one run advantage. After replacing Birkholz, Mercer would give up a double to Bertram that would chase home Amick, giving the Tigers a 2 run lead by way of back-to-back RBI doubles.
Despite giving up a run by way of a wild pitch an inning prior, Clayton would return to the mound to begin the 8th. Though he would allow a lead off single to Neri, he would strike out WIlliams and get Penny to ground into a double play to end the inning.
Clayton would return to the mound again in the 9th. Though a lead off double by Prajzner would raise anxieties, Clayton retired the next three batters in order to close out the game and give the Tiger’s their second ACC series win of the season.
POTG: Billy Amick; 3-4, 1 RBI, 2 R, 2 Doubles
While the wins over Coastal, Florida State, and Georgia led Clemson fans to wonder if the Tigers were experiencing a mid-season turnaround, the Notre Dame series confirmed that Clemson is now a real contender for the postseason.
The most important aspect of this series was the versatility the Tigers showed in accrewing their wins. The Tigers won this series by solid play in all facets of the game. Strong pitching performances from both Gordan and Grice kept Notre Dame’s bats at bay. Conversely, the Tigers lineup is beginning to look threatening throughout, totaling 15 runs in the series.
Most impressive, however, was the Tiger’s bullpen. In 13.2 total innings of relief, the bullpen only allowed 5 earned runs, earning an ERA of 3.41 in the three game series.
Clayton was particularly impressive, as he alone provided 4.2 innings of relief and allowed 0 earned runs. He also earned the win on Sunday.
If the Tigers can continue to pitch as they have in this series, they should have no issue continuing to improve down the stretch. The greatest concern moving forward is cleaning up the mental mistakes. Several of Notre Dame’s runs in this series came by way of errors and wild pitches. If the Tigers can limit these miscues moving forward, they will have a very strong chance of making the postseason.
The Tigers will return to action on Tuesday, April 18th, as they welcome the Georgia Bulldogs to Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Check back in for a preview of that matchup.