It doesn’t matter who they play or how they are playing or what inning they are in or how many outs they have or how many strikes are left, Clemson’s baseball team keeps playing to the very last strike.
“With this team, our confidence never dies,” outfielder Reed Rohlman said. “We were just as confident in the ninth as we were in the first when we were putting up runs.
“It is fun to watch us because from freshmen to seniors we carry the same confidence throughout our lineup. I have never been on a team here that is like that.”
The third-ranked Tigers were like that in Game 1 of their three-game series against No. 17 Wake Forest on Friday night. Clemson went into the bottom of the ninth inning trailing by two runs and facing the Demon Deacons’ closer, Griffin Roberts.
But somehow and someway, the Tigers, with no one on and with one out, rallied to win for a 10th time this season. It was the sixth time they found a way to win a game in their last at-bat and the fourth-time in walk-off fashion.
On Friday, catcher Chris Williams’ drew a two-out walk with the bases loaded to bring home Chase Pinder with the game-winning run as the Tigers came from behind for an 8-7 win at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
“Our guys just believed,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “They really believe that we will find a way and they really compete.”
Lee said his Tigers (32-7, 15-4 ACC) found a way to win when most of the 5,352 in attendance did not. With one out, Jordan Greene got the rally started with a base hit up the middle on a 3-2 count and then Weston Jackson was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second.
Pinder then fouled off several pitches and stayed alive on another 3-2 count to load the bases with a walk. Rohlman followed with a single to right field on a 3-1 count to score Greene to make it a one-run game. Logan Davidson then brought in the tying run, Jackson, with a sac fly to deep centerfield.
With two outs, Seth Beer loaded the bases again with another drawn walk before Williams walked in the winning run by scoring Pinder from third.
“We put together some great at-bats in the ninth,” Lee said. “It was a 3-2 count and Greene hits it up the middle. Then Pinder had an incredible at-bat for a walk. Chris Williams’ at-bat, he just stayed in the strike zone and forced their guy to throw it in the zone. He took some pitches that were out of the zone.”
Williams, who drove in two runs despite seeing his 12-game hitting streak come to an end, said going into that final at-bat he was looking for one pitch and at one zone. If he saw that pitch then he was going to go for it.
The junior saw that pitch just twice. The first time he saw it, he blasted it to left field where it hooked fouled. However, Williams turned on it just enough to scare Roberts from throwing it again until his final pitch.
On a 3-2 count, with Pinder 90 feet away representing the winning run, Roberts threw it again, but the fastball was just high enough to keep Williams from chasing it.
“I knew it was up, but when it was crossing the zone I knew (the umpire) had a big zone all day so I did not want to jump the gun and get called out so that is what happened,” Williams said.
While Williams jogged to first base, Pinder trotted down the third baseline and jumped on home plate while his teammates mobbed him. Once again, the Cardiac Cats found another way to pull victory from the jaws of defeat.
“This is a great group of guys and we are all so close as friends,” Pinder said. “It really makes it easy once you get on the field together so I would say it is probably the most fun that I have ever had.”
Clemson and Wake Forest will play a doubleheader on Saturday to close out the series. The first game will start at 2 p.m. and the third game will begin approximately 45 minutes after the first game.