Commodores tie NCAA record with 9 home runs
Clemson’s baseball season came to a close Sunday the same way it did last year … at the hands of Vanderbilt in the Clemson Regional Finals. The Commodores eliminated Clemson for a second straight season with a 19-6 victory at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
The 13-run loss ties Clemson’s worst home loss in an NCAA Tournament Regional.
“I thought the score was going to be opposite honestly but it is baseball and we cannot dictate that,” Clemson first baseman Chris Williams said.
Vanderbilt (34-25) moves on to the Super Regional Round, where it has an opportunity to host after No. 7 national seed Florida State was eliminated on Saturday. The Commodores went undefeated in the Clemson Regional.
The Tigers finish the season at 47-16, the best season the program has had in terms of wins and losses since 2006. However, Clemson has now lost eight straight NCAA Regionals and the program has not advanced to a Super Regional since 2010.
The Tigers are 0-3 under head coach Monte Lee in NCAA Regionals, all three of which have been played at home and with one of the nation’s best players in Seth Beer. Prior to the current streak, Clemson won 10 straight home NCAA Tournament rounds from 2000-2010, all under former head coach Jack Leggett.
“It is the team that plays the best that wins the regional,” Lee said. “We have come up short for the past few years and this was no exception. We have played some good baseball.
Clemson was 32-7 in home regional games under Leggett and advanced to nine of 12 Super Regionals from 1999-2010. Overall at home the Tigers were 40-9 at home under Leggett and advanced 12 times on 15 tournament home regionals.
After avoiding elimination with a win over St. John’s earlier in the day, Clemson could not do much of anything right against Vanderbilt, especially on the mound. The Commodores used a four-run third inning and a five-run sixth to put the Tigers away.
They had nine home runs, which tied an NCAA Tournament record, including three from Connor Kaiser and two apiece from Phillip Clarke and Stephen Scott. Julian Infante and Harrison Ray had home runs in the top of the eighth inning to make the score 16-6 at the time.
“Game 1 today was a tough one…we got down early and found a way to fight and win the game…but at the end of the day, we just didn’t have enough arms,” Lee said.
Vanderbilt’s 19 runs were the most allowed by a Monte Lee coached Clemson team.
Kaiser, who had 10 RBIs to tie an NCAA Tournament record, had a three-run homer in the third inning and then a grand slam in the sixth inning. Clarke followed Kaiser’s home run in the third with his first, and then had another solo home run with one out in the fifth inning.
Kaiser’s home run in the sixth inning gave Vanderbilt an 11-3 lead. He also had a two-run shot in the seventh inning to extend the Vandy advantage to 14-5. The shortstop came into the game with just three home runs for the season.
Scott had a solo home run in the first inning and then another with one out in the seventh inning for Vanderbilt.
The Commodores led 5-0 after three innings before Williams took a 0-1 offering from Mason Hickman to left field in the bottom of the fourth. The ball easily cleared the left field wall and got the Tigers on the board with a two-run shot.
It marked Williams’ 18th home run of the season. The long ball scored Logan Davidson, who earlier had a one-out walk.
After Clark’s home run in top of the fifth inning, the Tigers loaded the bases in the bottom frame and got one run across when Kier Meredith was hit by a pitch. However, Hickman struck Davidson out swinging and then got Beer to fly out to centerfield to end the threat and Clemson’s best opportunity to get back in the game.
Then in the top of the sixth inning, Kaiser hit his grand slam. Austin Martin also had a double which brought in another run.
Kyle Wilkie, who had two hits in the game, had a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning to help the Tigers’ cause, but they still trailed 11-5 at the time. Clemson picked up another run in the seventh inning when Williams doubled down the left field line to score Meredith.
With the season over, the Tigers turn their attention over to MLB Draft, which begins Monday. Beer is expected to be drafted in the first round was given a standing ovation by Clemson fans after his last at-bat.