Twenty times on Friday seventh-ranked Clemson put runners on base. However, it was only able to get two of them home. Numbers like that are not going to earn a win against anyone much less against the No. 2 team in the country.
Overall, the Tigers stranded 12 runners in scoring position and 16 overall, while Louisville took advantage of its opportunities when they came as it handed Clemson its fifth straight ACC loss, 4-2.
The Tigers (37-13, 16-9 ACC) left the bases load in the first inning, had runners on first and second with no outs in the second inning, had a runner at third in the fourth and another at second in the fifth inning and could not bring any of them home.
“We had a lot of opportunities today, offensively,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “We left way too many guys on base and we just could not come up with the big hit.”
The worst of all came in the bottom of the eighth inning when the Tigers loaded the bases with no outs, but Seth Beer doubled into a double play at third and then Chris Williams flied out to right field to end the threat.
“I wish I had an answer for you,” said first baseman Andrew Cox. “These pitchers are in the ACC for a reason. They have a lot of good stuff, too. It is tough as a hitter to be locked in and treat it like there is not anybody on, but at the same time we have had some struggles along the way hitting with runners on base.
“I don’t ever give up on my team. I don’t ever give up on myself. I don’t ever stop believing. I don’t have an answer for you, but one thing is for sure. We will be ready to do it again tomorrow and we will be ready to go.”
The irony of it all is that when Clemson finally did break through and to get on the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth inning, it came against pitcher Sam Bordner who had not given up a run all year in his previous 17 appearances and 30 2/3 innings of work. But after Cox doubled off the wall in left centerfield to start the inning, freshman catcher Kyle Wilkie singled up the middle with two outs bring Cox home for the Tigers’ first run.
After Bordner walked a couple of batters, Chase Pinder singled to second base to score Wilkie to make it 4-2 Louisville after six innings.
“I think every single time we come up to bat with runners on base, we are that at-bat away from breaking out of it,” Cox said. “That is the way you have to think about it.”
Unlike Clemson, Louisville (44-6, 21-4 ACC) took advantage of its opportunities. Colby Fitch hit a solo home run in the top of the first inning and then added two more in third following a Logan Davidson error at shortstop.
The Cardinals got their fourth run of the game after another Davidson error in the fourth inning.
“That’s baseball. Errors happen,” Clemson starter Charlie Barnes said. “It’s not like he was out there trying to do things on purpose. He is competing as hard as he could. I just told him to keep his head up. There are going to be more grounders in the game today and more grounders tomorrow. We all know the type of player you are so keep your head up and keep fighting. We all believe in you.”
Barnes pitched well enough to win the game. Fitch’s home was the only run charged to him as he allowed seven hits in six innings of work, while dropping his ERA to 2.83.
Cox led the Tigers at the plate with four hits in five at-bats. Pinder finished the game 3-for-5 with an RBI.
Louisville’s Brendan McKay improved to 8-3 on the mound as he went five innings and gave up no runs. He had seven strikeouts, but he gave up five hits and three walks.
Clemson and Louisville will play Game 2 on Saturday starting at 4 p.m.