Everything clicked for the sophomore against Louisville
DURHAM, N.C. — As the game went on, catcher Kyle Wilkie could see the look of despair in the eyes of the Louisville players on Thursday.
The Cardinals had no answer for Clemson lefty Mat Clark, who pitched the greatest game head coach Monte Lee has seen in his career.
Clark was magnificent in painting the corners and not giving the Louisville batters really anything good to hit. By the fifth inning, Wilkie could see the frustration on their faces and knew they were done for the afternoon.
“Our offense has done it, too, where we may not be swinging the bats well, and then you start kind of trying to push for things or swinging out of the zone or whatever it is, you’re trying to get hits and trying to get runs,” Wilkie said. “So, you can just kind of tell as the lineup goes that they’re really trying to get hits, and he just did a great job and kept them off balance.”
Clark was perfect through seven innings, until he gave up a walk in the bottom of the eighth and took a no-hitter into the ninth inning. He did not even throw more than two balls to a batter until he issued the walk in the eighth inning.
“Mat Clark shut them down. I mean, he did it, and our defense was outstanding,” Lee said.
Pinch-hitter Zach Britton eventually broke up the no-hitter with a home run to right field in the top of the ninth inning. But by that point, the damage was done, and Clemson got a much needed 7-1 victory at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C.
Clark eventually left the game in the ninth inning, but his eight-inning day was a new career-best. Britton’s home run was the only hit Louisville got in the game.
“I was just going to go out there and be aggressive as possible and stay in the strike zone and continue to throw strikes through the course of the game,” Clark said. “I think I was able to locate my pitches pretty well today. It really gave me a lot of confidence and I was able to get ahead.”
Wilkie, who drove in three runs with a double and a solo home run, said Clark made life easy for him behind the plate.
“I didn’t have to do a lot today. I just put my glove there and didn’t have to move it,” the Clemson catcher said. “I mean, this guy is just an absolute stud. If we wanted a fastball on the plate, he threw it on the plate. If we wanted it off, he threw it off. Whatever we wanted, he was throwing it.”
Louisville coach Don McDonnell said Clark’s performance was impressive, while shortstop Tyler Fitzgerald said the Clemson lefty pitched great.
The funny thing was, Clark had no idea he was in for the kind of game he had in the third day of the ACC Baseball Championships. During his bullpen session prior to the game, he said he was shaky and was not throwing many strikes.
“But then something just clicked on the mound and I was able to locate all my pitches,” he said. “A couple weeks, past couple weeks, I haven’t had that kind of command. Like my walk numbers were up a little bit the past couple weeks. But it felt good today locating all of my pitches.”
It just did not feel good for Louisville.