DURHAM, N.C. —Once again, third-ranked Clemson needed just one inning to take down its opponent.
Besides finding the means to win one-run games, the Tigers have a knack for always coming up with that one inning the gets them over the top in a game this season.
A day after scoring 17 runs in blowout win over Notre Dame in the 2018 ACC Baseball Championships, Clemson scored six runs in the bottom of the sixth inning Thursday to beat No. 7 seed Miami, 7-1, at Durham Bulls Park in Durham, N.C.
During their stretch, in which they have now won 19 of their last 21 games, the Tigers have had at least one big inning in 13 of those games.
“Our guys understand that we’re trying to put together the types of at-bats that it takes to lead to a big inning,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “We preach and preach and preach plate discipline, attacking the ball up in the zone, understanding what the pitcher is doing to you, and what it takes to get guys on base to put us in a position to get a pitch up and hit a ball hard to put together a big inning.”
Drew Wharton got the sixth inning off to a good start on Thursday when he led off with a solo home run to left field that bounced off the roof of the Tobacco Road restaurant. It was just the fourth hit of the game off Miami starter Jeb Bargfeldt, who rolled through the first five innings of the game.
“We have really good approaches,” Wharton said after the game. “We just want to see pitches up in the zone and put our best swing on it. If we do that, then we are not swinging at pitches out of the zone and take our best swing at pitches in the zone. Then we are going to get our fair share of home runs, doubles and what we want to accomplish.”
The Tigers (45-13) accomplished six runs off six hits in the decisive sixth inning against Miami. Wharton’s home run got the Tigers going as they scored five more runs with two outs, including a three-run home run from Chris Williams.
“We also celebrate the home run,” Lee said. “We do celebrate the home run. We talk a lot about getting pitches up in the zone and swinging the bat with the intent to do damage. It comes out of my mouth a lot.
“So we never slow our swing down. We don’t try to put the ball in play. It’s just not in our DNA at Clemson. We don’t talk about putting the ball in play. We’re not defensive at the plate.”
After Wharton’s home run, the Tigers got two-out singles from Jordan Greene, Logan Davidson, Kyle Wilkie and Seth Beer before Williams launched his three-run bomb to right field. In a half-inning that started with the game tied at one, it ended with the Tigers on top 7-1.
“I don’t know what it is, it’s been like this for the past three years now, since I’ve been here with Coach Lee,” Williams said. “I don’t know if it’s just the way we’ve been practicing, the way our fall goes or anything, but once we get the ball rolling, it’s hard to stop us. We know once we get one guy on, two guys on, it’s just — we want to get up there and hit. That’s how every hitter is in our lineup.”