Second-ranked Louisville did something on Sunday that has not been done to Clemson in three years. It completed a three-game sweep of the seventh-ranked Tigers.
Despite committing five errors and misplaying two other balls, the Cardinals defeated Clemson 6-4 at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. The Tigers have now lost seven straight Atlantic Coast Conference games and nine of their last 11.
“Give Louisville a lot of credit. It is one of the best teams in the country,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “Even when they did not play their best baseball, they found a way to win the game and that is what great teams do.
“I really appreciate our fan support this weekend. We had great turnouts and I really appreciate them supporting our players and our team. Obviously, I feel really bad how it turned out this weekend. I apologize to our fans. I have to find a way to push across another run or two.”
It was the first time the Tigers were swept at home in a three-game series since March of 2014 (vs. Miami), and the first time in back-to-back ACC series since 2008 when Miami and North Carolina did it.
More importantly, Clemson (37-15, 16-11 ACC) lost its grip of third place in the ACC standings. After Sunday’s games, Clemson is now in third place in the ACC Atlantic behind Louisville and Wake Forest, and is tied for fourth overall in the ACC with Virginia. The ACC Tournament begins on May 23 in Louisville, Ky.
Again, it was Clemson’s inability to score with runners in scoring position that came back to haunt the team. The Tigers were just 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position on Sunday. It also did not help that Seth Beer, Chris Williams and Andrew Cox were 1-for-12 in the middle of the lineup.
They managed only one run with the bases loaded and no outs in the third inning. The Tigers also had a runner on second with one out in the fourth inning and could not bring him home.
In the fifth inning, Rohlman had a lead-off double and the Tigers failed to pick him up. In the sixth inning Andrew Cox and Jordan Greene reached base to lead off, but following a Weston Jackson strikeout, Kyle Wilkie grounded into a double play to end the inning.
As it was all weekend, Louisville (46-6, 23-4 ACC) was effective when it mattered most. With the Tigers failing to take advantage of the Cardinals’ mistakes they made them pay. The biggest came in the top of the eighth inning when Tyler Fitzgerald scored from third after Clemson pitcher Tyler Jackson was called for a balk from third base umpire Fred Cannon.
Clemson took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Chase Pinder blasted a shot to left field. With the count sitting at 2-2, Pinder sent a rocket down the left field line to for his second home run of the series. It was the centerfielder’s sixth home run of the year.
Pinder’s homer also scored Reed Rohlman on the play. The Clemson left fielder reached second base when Louisville left fielder Ryan Summers dropped a routine fly ball.
Louisville quickly regained the lead in the top of the second inning when Drew Ellis homered down the left field line after the ball hit the foul pole to stay fair. Josh Stowers then got a one-out single to left and advanced to second on a wild pitch, and with two outs Grayson Byrd could not control a Ryan Summers’ hit to third base, allowing Stowers to come home for the go-ahead run.
Clemson tied the game in the bottom of the third inning when Chris Williams flied out to right field, allowing Logan Davidson to come home from third base with the tying run. The Tigers were aided by three Louisville errors in the inning, including a catcher’s interference when Pinder was at the plate with no outs. But Beer watched strike three for the first out before Williams’ sacrifice tied the game at 3-3.
Louisville’s three errors gave it four of the game. It had not had more than three errors in any game all season.
Clemson’s lone hit in the inning came from Rohlman, who singled to right field and moved to second base on an error by Cardinals’ right fielder Stowers.
Louisville regained the lead in the top of the sixth inning when Devin Mann singled to left field with two outs to score Colby Fitch, who led off the inning with a single to right field. They then extended the lead to 5-3 in the seventh inning before Logan Davidson had a solo shot to left field.
The Tigers will host Coastal Carolina on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in their home regular-season finale at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.