DURHAM, N.C. — It was not a 17-run inning, but nevertheless the sixth inning in Clemson’s 7-1 victory over Miami Thursday in the 2018 ACC Baseball Championship was big enough.
Led by Drew Wharton’s solo home run to start the bottom of the sixth inning, the third-ranked Tigers produced six runs on six hits to blow open what was a close game through five and a half innings at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C.
“As I’ve said time and time again, that momentum, once that momentum starts and our offense is so contagious, it’s very, very difficult to stop it,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said afterward.
In Clemson’s first game of the ACC Tournament on Wednesday, it scored 17 runs off 11 hits in the top of the fourth inning in running Notre Dame out of town. The Tigers have now won six straight games in Durham, dating back to its 4-0 mark on its way to an ACC Championship in 2016.
It was the Tigers (45-13) eighth straight win overall and advances them to the ACC Championship Semifinals on Saturday at 5 p.m., where they will play the winner of Friday’s NC State-Florida State game.
Everything started when Wharton took Miami pitcher Jeb Bargfeldt’s 1-0 offering over the wall in left field to put Clemson back on top of the Hurricanes in the bottom of the sixth inning. Chris Williams later capped it off with a three-run bomb of his own to right field as Clemson gained some separation from the Hurricanes in what was a 1-1 game when the Clemson sixth started.
Wharton’s bomb cleared the high wall in left field and bounced off the roof of the Tobacco Road restaurant. The home run gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead at the time.
Jordan Greene added to Clemson’s lead when he crossed home plate off another two-out run scoring hit from Kyle Wilkie. The sophomore hit the ball safely through the left side to plate Greene.
Greene had kept the inning alive with a two-out single to the left and then Logan Davidson singled through the same spot to keep the rally going. Seth Beer then increased the lead to 4-1 with a fourth straight hit. The junior went through the right side to score Davidson.
Williams capped off the Tigers’ big inning with a three-run bomb to right field for a 7-1 lead after six innings.
“Chris Williams hit one of the hardest balls I think I’ve seen hit,” Lee said. “That pitch was slightly off the plate and down, and hit a line drive. I was just hoping it was going to get over the right fielder’s head when he hit it, and it went out of the ballpark. You don’t see balls that are in that location that are hit that hard the other way. Just an outstanding job of hitting by Chris Williams.”
The Tigers’ six runs were more than enough to give Ryan Miller the win, who came on for starter Brooks Crawford in the sixth. The righty finished the game by pitching the last six innings for Clemson. He allowed seven hits and no runs.
“Between Brooks and Ryan Miller, that was all we needed,” Lee said. “Those guys did just a great job of executing pitches, filling up the strike zone, and we played pretty good defense behind them. Just a very complete game by our guys, and happy to get the win tonight.”
Though he did not have his best stuff on Thursday, Crawford was able to keep Miami at bay, holding the Hurricanes (28-26) to one run on three hits. He threw 88 pitches overall.
“I was just trying to execute pitches as best I could,” Crawford said. “I was throwing a little off to the outside to the righties, so I kind of made an adjustment, just dropped down my arm side just a little bit so I wasn’t as high and getting a little more run on my fastball, so that kind of helped me a good bit.”
Clemson scored the game’s first run against Miami in the second inning when Jordan Greene brought Wharton home with a groundout to short.
Wharton led the inning off with a base hit through the right side. Justin Hawkins followed with a walk on a great at-bat in which he fouled off several pitches from Miami starter Jeb Bargfeildt. Sam Hall then bunted both runners over and Greene’s grounder to short was enough to bring Wharton home with game’s first run and a 1-0 lead.
For Miami, its season more than likely comes to an end as well as head coach Jim Morris’ 25-year career in Miami. The Hall of Fame head coach announced his retirement earlier this year.
The Clemson win also snapped the Hurricanes’ 11-game winnings streak.
“I’d like to make sure that we recognize Jim Morris with this being his last game in uniform,” Lee said. “Forty-one years as a head baseball coach, to have the type of success that he has had is unprecedented. Only a handful of guys have ever had that type of career, so just want to make sure that we wish Jim Morris — I hope he has a great retirement and gets a chance to relax and enjoy life after baseball. But he’s done a lot for our game.”