The first two times Seth Beer came to the plate on Friday, UNC Greensboro head coach Link Jarrett decided to intentionally walk the 2016 Dick Howser Award winner and it worked out nicely for he and his Spartans.
So when Beer came to the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning with two outs and runners on second and third, Jarrett again decided to walk Beer. However, this time Weston Jackson came through for top-seeded Clemson.
The right fielder lined a base hit to right field to score Chase Pinder and Logan Davidson, sparking a four-run inning as the Tigers beat UNCG 5-4 in Game 2 of the Clemson Regional at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
“We were not going to come in here, like a lot of teams do, and let Seth Beer beat us,” Jarrett said. “We wanted to make sure someone else beat us tonight other than Seth Beer and that is what happened.”
Davidson, who led the Tigers with three of the their seven hits in five at-bats at the plate, came through big when he drove in Jordan Greene in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Tigers a 5-3 lead. A run they needed when Cesar Trejo homered in the top of the ninth inning for UNCG.
“Boy that run was important as it turned out,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said.
Pat Krall made his first relief appearance of the season in the top of the ninth inning when he came in for Ryley Gilliam with no outs. It was his first save since he was awarded the save against Louisville in last year’s ACC Tournament.
“We were really trying to get through Trejo,” Lee said. “Once we got past Trejo we wanted to bring Pat in and have him close it and he did a great job.”
Clemson will play Vanderbilt on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the winner’s bracket game. The Spartans will play St. John’s in an elimination game at noon.
Clemson (40-19) got runners on first and second with one out in the top of the first inning when Jarrett intentionally walked Beer to load the bases. His move paid off when Jackson popped up to third base and then Andrew Cox grounded out to second base to end the inning.
In the bottom of the third inning, Pinder reached on a fielding error with two outs and again Jarrett intentionally walked Beer. The move paid off again when Jackson flew out to centerfield to end the inning.
But Jarrett went to the well one too many times and Jackson made him pay in the bottom of the fifth inning. After Davidson got a one out hit and Pinder reached on a fielder’s choice, Jarrett again decided to intentionally walk Beer to get to Jackson with two outs.
“Link played for Mike Martin (at Florida State) and Mike Martin is one of those guys that will do everything he can to not let your best hitter beat you,” Lee said. “When it comes to a game plan, and sometimes, it is pretty simple, just don’t let their best guy when they get runners on base beat you.
“I thought it was a smart move on his part. We knew, and we said in pregame, that somebody was going to have to hit with runners on base and they are going to have to hit behind Seth and Pinder once we get guys on base, and we put Jackson right there behind them and he delivered a big blow when we needed him to.”
On a 1-0 pitch from Bryce Hensley, Jackson took the baseball to the opposite side in right field, easily scoring Davidson and Pinder to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead. Cox then followed with an infield hit to score Beer and Davidson scored when second baseman Austin Embler misplayed the ball and let it go under his glove.
When Jackson crossed home plate, he received a warm welcome and a hug from Beer.
“You can’t really put it into words. It was cool,” Jackson said. “That atmosphere, man, that is the kind of stuff you dream of as a kid. Being a part of it, you really can’t put it into words. It was awesome.”
Clemson’s four-runs were all starter Alex Eubanks needed. Though he gave up solo home runs to Caleb Webster in the fourth and Trejo in the seventh, the righty gave the Tigers what they needed on the mound. He went 7 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits, while striking out five and walking just one.
“Alex Eubanks was really, really good,” Lee said.