CHAROLOTTE — The first game of the ACC Tournament could not have started any better for 11th seed Clemson Tuesday at Truist Field in Charlotte.
Needing a win to have any hopes of keeping their postseason hopes alive, the Tigers got a two-run homer from Caden Grice in the first inning and then scored three runs in the second, one in the third and two in the fourth inning.
Unfortunately, for the Tigers, No. 7 Louisville did even better. The Cardinals scored in each of the first six innings, 14 runs overall, as they outlasted Clemson, 15-10.
“We hit them pretty hard in the first three innings and they just kept answering us,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said after the game.
The loss eliminated Clemson from the ACC Tournament, though it will play Georgia Tech at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in Pool B.
With Clemson (24-27) eliminated from the ACC Tournament, Wednesday’s Georgia Tech game will be its last of the season. It also solidified the Tigers’ first losing season since 1957, one year before Hall of Fame head coach Bill Wilhelm came to Clemson.
Lee said the message for his team on Wednesday, with the season coming to an end, will be to go play baseball, play for the seniors and players leaving the program and go have fun.
“The biggest message is that we have one game left. It is really that simple,” he said. “We have one game left, let’s go out and from pitch one until the game is over, let’s cheer for each other, let’s have great dugout energy, let’s have a lot of fun.
“This will be the last game for this team this year, and everybody just bring as much energy as they can for each other and let’s go play baseball. It is pretty simple.”
It also means Clemson will not earn an NCAA Tournament bid for the first time since 2008. The Tigers had made the previous 11 NCAA Tournaments, one of just five schools in the country that could claim such. This will be just the second time the Tigers have not played in the NCAAs since 1987. They had played in 33 of the previous 34.
Louisville and Clemson combined Tuesday for 11 home runs, breaking an ACC Tournament single-game record. Louisville finished the game with seven home runs–also a tournament record–while Clemson had four. Louisville’s Alex Binelas tied a single-game ACC Tournament record with three home runs. He also drove in six runs.
Ben Metzinger had two home runs and four RBIs for the Cardinals, while Henry Davis had two home runs as well. They had 19 hits as a team.
After James Parker drew a two-out walk in the top of the first inning, after he battled through nine pitches, Grice launched a bomb to left field that cleared the scoreboard.
Grice’s home run came on an 0-2 pitch and gave Clemson a 2-0 lead.
Louisville tied the game with two runs in the bottom of the first, but the Tigers took a 5-2 lead in the second inning.
After Davis Sharpe reached base with an error and Dylan Brewer was hit by a pitch, Adam Hackenberg singled to left field, scoring Davis for a 3-2 lead.
Bryce Teodosio then followed with a double down the third base line that just got past the Cardinals’ third base. The double allowed Brewer and Hackenberg to come home, giving Clemson a 5-2 advantage.
But the Tigers could not hold their lead, as Metzinger had a two-run homer in the bottom of the second inning, and though Grice hit his second home run in the top of third inning—a solo shot to right—the Cardinals tied the game for a second time when Davis and Binelas homered in the bottom of the third.
Teodosio then hit a bomb to left field in the top of the fourth, scoring Hackenberg on the play as well, as the Tigers’ regained the lead, 8-6.
However, Clemson pitching could not hold off a Louisville team that just kept hitting the ball. Metzinger homered to right field for a two-run shot to tie the game for a third time and then Davis hit a solo homer to left to give the Cardinals their first lead of the morning, 9-8, after four innings.
After Louisville (28-21) added to its lead in the fifth inning, Hackenberg had a solo home run with one out in the sixth inning to make it a 10-9 game. But again, the Cardinals answered the Clemson rally with one of their own.
Binelas hit a three-run shot and Levi Usher singled through the left side to score another run in the bottom of the sixth inning as Louisville broke the game open, 14-8.
Hackenburg led the Tigers at the plate. He was 4-for-4 with 3 RBIs. Teodosio had four RBIs and was 2-for-4 with a double and a home run. Grice had three RBIs to go with his two home runs.
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