DURHAM, N.C. — The only thing that went wrong for Clemson on Thursday was when Louisville pinch-hitter Zach Britton broke up Mat Clark’s no-hitter in the bottom of the ninth inning with a home run to right field.
Other than that, everything else went great as the Tigers downed No. 7 Louisville, 7-1, at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, North Carolina.
“We could not ask for a better start than what we got out of Mat Clark,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said afterward. “It is one of the best starts I have ever witnessed in my career as a coach.”
With his team playing for its postseason life, Clark went a career-best eight innings, giving up just one hit, while walking two with three strikeouts. The sophomore had a perfect game going through seventh innings of play before he allowed a walk and took his no-hitter into the ninth inning.
“He put our team and our program on his shoulder today, against one of the best teams in the country, the ACC Champion and won the game for us,” Lee said.
The ACC Tournament has never had a pitcher throw a no-hitter, and Clemson has not had one since 2009, as a team, and since 1984 by a single pitcher.
The win was what the Tigers needed the most as it perhaps clinched an 11th straight NCAA Tournament berth. Clemson’s RPI moved up six spots to No. 36 after the win.
Most figured the Tigers needed the win over Louisville to get in the NCAA Baseball Tournament.
“It was a tremendous win for our program,” Lee said. “I think we all knew going into this game how big this game was for us.”
Clark’s career-high before Thursday was 7 1/3 innings of work, which coincidentally came against the Cardinals on April 6 of this year. On that Saturday, the redshirt sophomore allowed just one run on four hits in the Tigers’ 6-3 win.
“It kind of felt like any other outing,” Clark said. “I just tried to stay aggressive and get ahead early.”
Clark got plenty of help from his friends, too. Justin Hawkins had a three-run home in the fourth inning, while Kyle Wilkie had a solo home run in the seventh inning and a two-run double in the third.
The Tigers (34-24) ran off ACC Pitcher of the Year Reid Detmers after the fourth inning. The sophomore lost for just the third time of the season in 15 starts and 14 decisions. Detmers gave up five runs on his six hits before leaving the game. He threw 77 pitches in four innings of work.
Clemson grabbed the early lead in the top of the third inning when Wilkie doubled off the wall in left field. The double scored Bryce Teodosio and Michael Green to give Clemson a 2-0 lead.
Teodosio got things started with a one-out walk and then Green doubled to put runners on second and third. Logan Davidson walked to load the bases. With two out Wilkie doubled off the wall, scoring two runs.
Clemson extended its lead on Louisville in the top of the fourth inning when Hawkins launched a Detmers’ offering over the big blue wall in left centerfield.
The home run was of the three-run variety for Clemson has it took a 5-0 lead on top seed Louisville in the ACC Baseball Championship.
Greene got things going in the fourth for the Tigers when Jordan Greene outran an infield hit with one out. Sam Hall followed with a base hit to left field, setting up Hawkins’ three-run blast to left to score Greene and Hall.
The Tigers continued to pour it on in the fifth inning when Jordan Greene smacked a two-out single through the left side to score Logan Davidson for a 6-0 lead. Davidson led off the inning with a single through the left side off reliever Garrett Schmeltz, who came in for Detmers at the start of the inning.
With two outs, Bryar Hawkins kept the inning alive with a base hit through the right side. Greene then followed with his single to extend the Tigers’ lead.
Clemson now waits to hear what the NCAA selection committee will say on Monday when the entire field of 64 will be announced.