LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Though he would not admit it, Clemson pitcher Charlie Barnes was not a happy man on Tuesday night as he sat on stage for the post-game press conference.
And why should he be.
Once again, errors cost him in what should have been a victory for the junior, who became the first Clemson pitcher in 21 years to record at least 109 strikeouts in a season. Four times this year, either an error has caused the Tigers’ ace to suffer a loss or a no decision, including No. 14 Clemson’s 6-3 loss to Duke in Tuesday’s ACC Championships at Louisville Slugger Field in Louisville, Ky.
When Barnes left the game, the Tigers (39-18) held a 3-2 lead through six innings. In his six innings of work, the lefty was solid. He threw just 86 pitches, allowed one earned run off six hits and had four strikeouts with no walks.
“Yeah, I felt like I could have gone longer, but I was also getting pretty tight being on (four) days’ rest. It was a quick turnaround,” said Barnes, who pitched at NC State last Thursday. “I can’t blame them at all. I was getting pretty tight there towards the end, so I think it was a really good decision to try to stay healthy, not only for the rest of the tournament but also the NCAA Tournament.”
With Barnes out of the game Duke’s Jimmy Herron singled through the left side with two outs off reliever Alex Eubanks in the top of the seventh inning to bring home Max Miller from third base with the tying run. Miller drew a one-out walk and then Chris Proctor singled to right field with two outs to keep the inning alive for Herron.
“It’s definitely tough any time you leave the game with a lead, you’re hoping to get that win, but it’s not something that I focused on,” Barnes said afterward. “There have been plenty of times I’ve left the game where we’ve been losing, so it’s not something I can control. I just go in the dugout and try to cheer my teammates on the best I can.”
Clemson eventually lost the game in the top of the eighth inning when right fielder Weston Jackson ran into second baseman Jordan Greene on a pop fly down the right field line, allowing Kennie Taylor to reach base, which set up Michael Smiciklas’ double down the third-base line to score Griffin Connie from second with the eventual game-winner.
After a Clemson pitching change with two outs, Jalen Phillips singled to right field to bring two more runs home for a 6-3 lead.
“You’ve got to give Duke credit,” Barnes said. “They finished the game really strong, and we’ll have to come out Friday and get back to it.”
It was again, another frustrating end to what should have been a victory for Barnes and his Clemson teammates. The Tigers have now lost 10 of their last 15 games going down the stretch.
Clemson will play No. 10 Virginia on Friday at 11 a.m. The Tigers will need a win to keep their hopes alive for hosting a regional.