Tigers’ NCAA Tournament hopes are on life support

Tigers’ NCAA Tournament hopes are on life support

Baseball

Tigers’ NCAA Tournament hopes are on life support

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DURHAM, N.C. — With one out, it looked like Clemson’s Chad Fairey had a chance at a possible double-play ball in the top of the 11th inning. Instead, Peter Burns’ hit took a weird bounce off Fairey’s glove at first base and went over his head and into right field.

The error allowed Boston College’s Lucas Stalman to score the eventual game-winning run, as the 12th-seeded Eagles downed No. 8 Clemson, 7-5, in the first game of the ACC Baseball Championship Tuesday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, North Carolina.

“I feel bad for Chad Fairey,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “The ground ball jumped up and took a big hop. It took a tough on hop on him and that is what gave them the lead. That is baseball. That’s part of the game.”

The loss was a critical blow to the Tigers’ NCAA Tournament hopes and leaves their postseason lives on life support as they get set to play top-seed Louisville on Thursday in a game that means nothing for an ACC Championship and everything to the NCAA Tournament.

Clemson (33-24) likely has to beat the Cardinals to get into the tournament field, a loss would almost eliminate them from consideration. The Tigers have not missed the NCAA Tournament since the 2008 season, the only year since 1987 they did not make the field.

“I don’t think that is the mindset we are taking,” shortstop Logan Davidson said. “We are taking every game the same. We want to win every game no matter what. Every game is a must-win. We want to win every game like it is a must-win or not. That is the way it is.”

The disappointing part was Clemson rallied from three runs down late in the game to force extras. Trailing by three runs following a solo home run from Brian Dempsey in the top of the eighth inning, the Tigers rallied to tie things up in the bottom frame.

With the bases load and two outs, Green ripped a single up the middle to score Sam Hall and Jordan Greene, tying the game at 5. Hall also had an RBI single up the middle to score Kyle Wilkie, who started the inning off with a walk.

“Michael Green came up with a huge hit to put together a big inning for us and tie the ballgame,” Lee said.

Clemson had opportunities to win the game, but Davidson popped up to short with the go-ahead run at third to end the eighth and then in the bottom of the ninth and the 10th inning the Tigers had runners in scoring position both times, but failed to get it done and compete the comeback.

The Eagles got two home runs from second baseman Cody Morissette, including a two-run shot to right field in the top of the third inning.

Morissette, who had two home runs coming into Tuesday’s game, did not help Clemson’s cause. His first home run gave BC a 2-1 lead in the top of third inning, as he took starter Travis Marr’s 1-2 offering to deep right field.

The freshman then homered in the top of the fifth inning with a blast to right, this time off Clemson reliever Sam Weatherly. It was the first extra-base hit Weatherly had allowed in more than 15 innings of work.

The Eagles (30-26) also got solo home runs from Joe Suozzi in the fourth inning and Dempsey in the top of the seventh inning.

Besides Morissette’s two home runs, pitcher Mason Pelio again stymied Clemson’s bats. The righty went six innings, allowing just two runs on three hits before turning it over to his bullpen. He limited the Tigers to one run on four hits in a 3-2 victory at BC back on March 24.

“Peilo, and I have been saying this since we saw him earlier in the year, he is one of the best starters in our league and he is only a freshman,” Lee said. “He is only going to get better and better. When we had runners on base against him, it is almost like he pitches better, and it was the same way when we played them earlier in the year.”

Clemson took an early lead when Fairey, who led off the second inning with a base hit to left field, scored the game’s first run when Hall hit into a double play at shortstop.

Fairey got to third base with no outs in the inning after Dempsey closed his glove too early on what looked like a routine double-play ball off the bat of Bryar Hawkins. The error moved Fairey to third base, setting up the game’s first run.

Clemson rallied for another run in the bottom of the sixth inning to pull within two runs at 4-2. Wilkie flied out to center field to score Green, who led off the inning with a walk.

The Tigers will play Louisville on Thursday at 11 a.m., to conclude ACC Tournament play.

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