Clemson’s chance of being a national seed took a big-blow on Saturday as No. 2 Louisville rallied from four runs down to beat the seventh-ranked Tigers, 6-4, at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson. The win allowed the Cardinals to take a 2-0 lead and clinch the three-game series.
Saturday’s loss was Clemson sixth straight in Atlantic Coast Conference play and its seventh in the last 11 games. The Tigers were also swept by No. 3 North Carolina two weeks ago.
“Our guys have to keep their spirits up and they have to keep fighting,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “We just have to play good baseball, and I thought we played good baseball today. The bottom line is that late in the ballgame we left a few pitches up and they got hit out of the park by their two best hitters and you have to give Louisville credit for that.”
Though the Tigers (37-14, 16-10 ACC) appear to be a lock to host a regional when the NCAA Tournament begins in three weeks, anything short of winning an ACC Championship will likely mean they will not be one of the tournament’s top eight seeds when pairings are announced in a few weeks.
As for now, the Tigers have to shake off a difficult loss after leading 4-0 through the first five innings on Saturday.
“I’m just trying my best to keep our guys spirits up. I guess that is the big thing,” Lee said. “Look, we are a good team. People are going to doubt us. But I know what we have seen. I know we are a good team. I think our guys believe we are a good team, and it is my job to make sure we understand that.”
The Cardinals (45-6, 22-4 ACC) hit four home runs, two from catcher Colby Fitch and one each from Devin Mann and Drew Ellis, to rally for the victory. Ellis’ home run came in the top of the eighth inning with Brendan McKay on base, which turned out to be the eventual game-winner.
After stranding 12 runners in scoring position in Friday’s loss, Clemson took advantage of its first opportunity on Saturday and scored the game’s first run. With two outs in the bottom of the first inning, Seth Beer took a 3-1 offering from Kade McClure and hit it through the right side to bring home Logan Davidson from second base. Beer’s 42nd RBI gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead after one inning.
Chase Pinder gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning when he took a 1-0 offering from McClure and took it left field for a two-run home run.
Pinder, who flirted with a home run in the first inning, took McClure’s pitch and sent into the fifth row behind the left-centerfield wall. The two-out home run also brought Davidson home, who reached with a one-out single to right field.
Clemson led 3-0 after three innings.
Andrew Cox gave Clemson a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning when he sent a 1-0 offering from McClure into the right field stands. It was Cox’s fourth home run of the year and it gave the Tigers a four-run lead.
Louisville cut into Clemson’s lead in the top of the sixth inning when Fitch hit his second home run of the series with a shot to right field off Clemson starter Alex Eubanks. Devin Mann then followed with a home run of his own down the left field line after an Ellis two-out hit to keep the inning going.
Those were the only two mistakes Eubanks made as he went seven innings for the Tigers while scattering seven hits and striking out eight. He gave up no walks in a no-decision.
Fitch tied the game in the top of the eighth inning with another solo home run, his third of the series, before Ellis launched his two-run bomb to left field off reliever Ryley Gilliam to give the Cardinals the lead for good.
Jeremy Beasley, who gave up the hit to McKay with one out in the eighth inning, was charged with the loss. McClure was credited with his seventh win of the season.
Clemson and Louisville will play Game 3 of the series on Sunday at noon. The game will be televised on ESPN2.