So often this season, Monte Lee has talked about the “big inning” — one frame featuring multiple runs that turned the tide in Clemson’s favor. The Tigers have been the beneficiaries of the “big inning” so many times this season. But on Tuesday night, it was their opponent that flipped the script on them in the ACC baseball tournament.
The No. 5 seeded Tigers fell to No. 9 seeded Duke 6-3 on Tuesday night at the ACC Tournament in Louisville, Ky., the result of a three-run eighth inning that broke open a tie and pushed the Blue Devils ahead for good.
While Clemson entered the tournament with hopes of making a deep push for obvious postseason hosting reasons, it is now impossible for the Tigers to advance to the ACC Tournament's semifinals. The nature of pool play in the ACC Tournament has No. 4 seeded Virginia, No. 5 seeded Clemson and No. 9 seeded Duke all playing against each other ahead of the semifinals. The team with the best record in pool play advances. If all teams go 1-1, Virginia automatically advances by virtue of being the top seed. If Virginia loses to Duke, the Blue Devils will have gone 2-0 and therefore they would advance, meaning Clemson is left out either way. Friday’s game against UVa will task Clemson with proving to the selection committee that the Tigers deserve to host a regional in the NCAA Tournament, so while the ACC Tournament will come to a close, there is still plenty on the line for Monte Lee's Tigers.
"We all know what's at stake. We know what's at stake," Lee said in a press conference afterward. "They're all important right now for every reason. They're important to try to build positive momentum going into a regional."
Duke found the scoreboard first Tuesday, in the opening inning, but Clemson seemed well on its way toward having success when it took a 3-1 lead by the end of the fourth, all off of solo home runs: one from Chase Pinder in the first, another from Andrew Cox in the second and a final from Logan Davidson in the fourth.
But Duke scored one in the fifth after Clemson left fielder Reed Rohlman was charged with a dropped foul ball error, and another in the seventh when typical Saturday starter Alex Eubanks relinquished a single to Jimmy Herron that scored Max Miller for a 3-3 tie. Clemson starter Charlie Barnes finished the night after six innings of six-hit, four-strikeout ball featuring no walks and two runs, one of which was earned.
The eighth inning turning point started with an accident: a checked swing from Michael Smiciklas off of Clemson pitcher Owen Griffith turned into an unexpected double and brought home the winning run to charge Griffith with the loss. Duke went ahead 4-3, then added two more insurance runs when Jalen Phillips singled to right field for a pair of RBIs.
First pitch for Friday’s game against UVa is scheduled for 11 a.m.
"You know, it hurts, but we've got another game on Friday, so we've got a couple days to let this one simmer, and should come out and try and play a good game on Friday," Cox said. "That's the only thing we can control from this point forward is how our focus shifts to Friday and the game we play then."