If Clemson was going to force a seventh and final game in the Clemson Regional, it was going to need a great pitching performance from Tyler Jackson and then someone else to step up and make a few plays as well.
That’s exactly what the Tigers got in their 6-0 victory over Vanderbilt on Sunday night in Game 6.
“I have been coaching for a long time, and that I think is the best baseball game that I think I have ever seen with my own two eyes,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “I don’t know if I have ever seen a team play that well. When you look at the pitching performance by Tyler Jackson first and foremost, how we played defensively, I don’t know if I have ever seen a better game defensively. We played extremely well, made a lot of, not only good plays, but great plays and we had some big-time hits. We had two-strike hits. We had two-out hits.
“Our guys really, really competed. I don’t know if we could have played a better baseball game. I’m really proud of our guys.”
With his team’s season on the line, Jackson, a graduate transfer from USC-Upstate, was magnificent. The righty kept Vanderbilt off-balance all night long with his fastball and an occasional off-speed pitch, limiting the Commodores to two hits in a complete game shutout.
“I just kind of played it like it was the last game that I am ever going to play,” Jackson said. “I just went out there and tried to enjoy every moment.”
The Commodores (35-23-1) had 22 runs on 36 hits in the first two games of the regional, including nine runs on 16 hits in a win over the Tigers on Saturday. However, they could do nothing against Jackson, who struck out three Vandy batters, while inducing 10 ground balls and 14 fly outs.
“I did not throw too much off-speed because they were on our off-speed the other night,” Jackson said. “So I just threw a lot of fastballs and I just kind of worked both sides of the plate with that.”
Leftfielder Reed Rohlman preserved the shutout when he robbed Will Toffey of a home run by climbing the wall in the bottom the ninth inning for the innings’ first out. Jackson then induced two more fly balls to end the game. It was one of the best pitching performances in the history of Clemson baseball.
But Jackson was not the only Jackson getting it done. Weston Jackson, no relation and also a graduate transfer from Presbyterian, had three hits, scored two runs, drove in three runs and hit a solo home run in the top of the sixth inning for the Tigers.
“It was do or die,” Jackson said. “I don’t have too many of these games left so I was just trying to enjoy it the best I possibly can.”
Clemson took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Chase Pinder doubled down the leftfield line to score Seth Beer, who was on second base. Pinder’s hit came with two outs and with two strikes.
The game stayed that way until the top of the sixth inning when Weston Jackson sent a bomb into the left field stands to extend the Clemson lead 2-0. It was Jackson’s eighth home run of the season.
Jackson was getting it done in the outfield as well. In the bottom of the fourth inning, with Ro Coleman on first base, Jackson robbed Jaren Kendall of extra base hits and a possible RBI when he tracked down the ball and nearly doubled up Coleman at first base.
The Greer, S.C., native continued to make plays in the fifth inning when he robbed Jason Delay of a sure extra base hit as well. Rohlman also made a diving catch in right centerfield in the same inning to steal an extra base hit from J.J. Bleday.
The Tigers (42-20) broke the game open in the top of the eighth inning when Jackson singled to lead things off and then scored on a Grayson Byrd base hit through the right side. Kyle Wilkie (2-for-3) doubled down the right field line to score Byrd to make it 4-0.
Byrd also had two hits for the Tigers and drove in a run.
Jackson’s double to leftcenter field in the top of the ninth inning scored Beer and Pinder for the Tigers’ 6-0 advantage.
Clemson and Vanderbilt will play in the championship game today at 4 p.m. The winner will advance to the Super Regional round where they will face Oregon State in Corvallis, Oregon.