Tigers fall despite Late Game Excitement
This was the game we thought we’d see last week. It was hard-fought, competitive, and literally came down to the final at-bat. It was exciting to watch, and though the Clemson Tigers put up a good effort in the 9th, they’d ultimately fall short to the Bulldogs, losing 5-4.
Georgia scored early, as Harber hit a two-run homer in the top of the first to give the Bulldogs the early 2-0 lead. Clemson would tie it in the bottom half, however, as an Ingle double score Cannarella, and Amick brought him home with a double of his own.
Hoffman would come to the mound to start the second, relieving Reid after only an inning of work. He would pitch well, allowing only one hit in the inning.
Similarly, the Bulldogs would replace their starter, Greenler, with Pearson. After achieving two outs by way of a double play, Pearson would allow two singles and a walk to load the bases. Taylor would then single through the right side of the infield, bringing home Cannarella and Hall, and promptly ending the reliever’s outing. Caldwell would retire the next batter to end the inning, but not before the Tigers took a 4-2 advantage.
Georgia would quickly respond, however. In the top of the third, Condon would homer off Hoffman to bring the Bulldogs within one. After a double by Tate, who advanced to third on a Harber ground out, Hoffman would be pulled. Bailey would come in to minimize the damage, though a sac-fly by Collins would plate Tate and tie the game.
The Bulldogs would pull ahead in the next inning. A lead-off double by Murillo placed the go-ahead run in scoring position for the Bulldogs. He would come home to score on a Stinson double, giving the Bulldogs the 5-4 lead.
The Bulldogs were able to protect that one run lead thanks to phenomenal pitching performances.
Caldwell, Rhadas, and Marsh kept the Tigers contained from the 3rd inning through to the 8th. They allowed only a single hit-an Amick single in the 5th-through a combined 6.1 innings of work. Similarly, they only allowed two walks.
Though it had been quite a while before the Clemson fans had something to cheer for, the Tiger faithful were greeted with an encouraging sign in the bottom half of the 8th. With runners on first and second, and two outs, Bakich decided to bring Ryan Ammons to the mound.
Though he began the season as the Tiger’s typical Friday night starter, Ammons has been sidelined for the majority of the season due to injuries. He had not seen action since Februrary 24th, as he pitched 5.0 strong innings against UCF.
Ammons would get Anderson to pop up to end the inning and prevent the Bulldogs from adding to their lead. He would look even more impressive in the ninth, as he would retire the side in order.
Though the Tigers had hopes of tying the game in the 9th, Finley worked hard to keep the Tigers at bay. After striking out Blackwell and Hall to start the inning, Canarella would smoke a single just beyond the second baseman’s reach, putting the potential tying run on first.
With the hopes of the Tiger faithful relying on him, Ingle would deliver, ripping a double just fair down the right field line. Canarella would round second and, as the throw came in from right, he would round third to force a play at the plate.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, the relay was perfect, and Canarella was out by a mile at home, ending the Tiger’s rally and sealing Georgia’s 5-4 win.
This was the contest fans expected to see a week ago. It was very competitive, and was decided on the very last at-bat of the night, and ultimately, the Bulldogs emerged victorious.
As a baseball fan, this was a very entertaining game. As a Tiger fan, however, this was incredibly frustrating to watch.
Lets begin with the obvious, the decision to send Canarella on Ingle’s double in the 9th. Bakich supported the call in his post game interview.
"“Absolutely, 100%, the right thing to do to go for it there and try to score from first. With two outs, you’ve got to take your shot there to tie it.”"
You hate he didn’t get in there, but, with all things considered, can one really fault the decision to send him? I mean, they hadn’t had an opportunity to score for several innings. Gotta take your chance when you have one, right?
That would be an acceptable excuse had it been a close play. That reasoning could work if Canarella actually had a chance to score.
But Canarella had no chance. Rounding third, the relay was already in motion. The catcher caught the ball as he was still several feet from the plate. Even if Canarella has the speed of Rickey Henderson, he still would not have gotten in at home. He didn’t even begin his slide before the out was made.
Admittedly, hindsight is 20/20. One can understand the argument for sending him, as making that decision in a matter of moments is impossibly difficult. Truth be told, had Canarella stayed at third, and Taylor would’ve struck out in the next at-bat, writers would be faulting the decision not to send him. To an extent, it was a lose-lost situation, and regardless of which choice was made, a game is neither won or lost in a single at-bat.
Which brings up the second argument: the strike zone. There was more than ample controversy derived from home plate umpire Doug Vines. In this game, the strike zone could only be described as unbelievably generous. There were balls half a foot off the plate–either side of the plate at that–that were consistently called strikes.
However, if Vines was anything, he was consistent, as both teams benefitted from these calls. Georgia pitchers utilized them in late innings to restrict the Tigers from tying the game, and likewise, Clemson’s bullpen utilized them to prevent the Bulldogs from adding onto that lead.
While it is frustrating to watch pitchers get calls they, arguably, should not receive, one should not credit Clemson’s loss to the strike zone. Nor should they credit it to Canarella’s push for home in the final at-bat.
The reason Clemson lost this game… rather, the reason Georgia won this game, was because of their bullpen.
Georgia’s premier deficiency this season has been the inability of their bullpen to keep teams off the scoreboard. Think back to last week’s matchup between these two teams. After chasing Wagner from the game, Clemson continued to score 5 additional runs on Georgia relievers.
Tonight, the Tigers were unable to do so, due in no small part to the contributions of Caldwell, Rhadans, Marsh, and Finley, who allowed only 2 walks and 3 hits in 7.1 innings of relief. Most importantly, they shut the Tigers out for the majority of the game.
So, does this mean the Tiger’s hot streak is over?
There are still several positive signs Tiger fans can take away from this game. The bullpen once again looked strong, and the return of Ammons is HUGE for this team, especially if Bakich is able to slot him into the weekend rotation moving forward.
So, does this result mean the Tiger’s hot streak is over?
Absolutely not. You never judge a team based on a single series, much less by a single game. But, it does raise the stakes for this team coming into their weekend series against NC State.
If the Tiger’s play like they did against Notre Dame, they’ll have a chance to compete and potentially even win that series against the Wolfpack. If they play as they did tonight, however, they’d be fortunate to avoid a sweep.
Check back in the upcoming days for a preview of that series, which is set to begin Friday, April 21st, at 6:00 EST.