Sports

Clemson Baseball: Denied Once Again

Tigers can’t seem to find their way back to Omaha …

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Following a convincing win on their home field at the regional level, the No. 6 Clemson Tigers baseball team fully expected to dominate the unranked Florida Gators at home in a super regional matchup last weekend.

At stake? A trip to the College World Series (CWS) in Omaha, Nebraska – a place the Tigers haven’t been since 2010.

And while this series produced an “instant classic” thirteen-inning marathon on Sunday afternoon (which included one of the greatest defensive plays ever witnessed on a baseball diamond) the game and the series – along with Clemson’s season – ultimately ended in frustration for the Tiger faithful.

For the first time since 1983, the Tigers (44-16) and Gators (34-28) met at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson, S.C. – with Florida upsetting Clemson 10-7 on Saturday and then clinching its CWS berth with a thrilling 11-10 victory in a five hour, thirteen-inning game on Sunday.

Neither game came easy … especially the Sunday showdown.

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Trailing 9-6 in the top of the ninth inning, star Clemson seniors Jacob Hinderleider and Blake Wright hit back-to-back singles, paving the way for sophomore outfielder Cam Cannarella to belt a game-tying three run homer.

Cannarella, a Hartsville, S.C. native, may have thought that game-tying homer would be the extent of his afternoon heroics, but he had something even more special in store. With the game tied 9-9 in the bottom of the tenth inning with two outs, Florida had runners on first and second base with sophomore utility man Ashton Wilson at the plate.

Cannerella was playing in shallow center field, hoping to be able to throw to the plate in the event Wilson connected on a base hit in his direction. Instead, Wilson drove a 1-1 pitch from junior Austin Gordon nearly 390 feet to the deepest part of the ballpark – forcing Cannarella to sprint back toward the center field wall.

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With what appeared to be a walk-off game winner sailing toward the fence, Cannarella kept the Tigers alive with a leaping, over-the-shoulder catch reminiscent of Willie Maysfamous grab in game one of the 1954 World Series.

“I was floored honestly, I mean that’s one of the best catches I’ve ever seen,” said Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan.

Clemson seemed to seize the moment in the top of the thirteenth inning when senior outfielder Alden Mathes launched a go-ahead home run to put the Tigers up 10-9. Just as Clemson was firing up, though, umpires called a celebratory penalty on Mathes for spiking his bat – which resulted in head coach Erik Bakich and former head coach/ advisor Jack Leggett getting tossed from the game for arguing.

“Alden hit the bomb and then he did a bat flip, or he didn’t even do a bat flip, he just slammed the bat on the ground and they threw him out,” Wright said during the post game press conference. “Coach was pretty mad about it … but it started to ignite the crowed a little bit.”

Bakich continued to pump up the crowd as he took his exit with Clemson maintaining the lead.

Reaching the bottom of the thirteenth, nerves were high for Clemson pitcher Ethan Darden – who allowed two singles and intentionally walked a batter. That’s when Michael Robertson rapped a walk-off, two run single to give Florida the come-from-behind victory.

“I was able to put a good swing on it and, you know, I thought I got enough barrel for it to, you know, find a gap and it did, but obviously none of that happens without the guys in front of me,” Robertson said in the postgame press conference. “Just super proud of this group of guys and can’t wait to keep rolling.”

Florida is heading to Omaha for the second year in a row along with fellow SEC squads Texas A&M, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Georgia had hoped to make it five SEC schools, but the Bulldogs were ousted by NC State on Monday evening.

(Click to View)

Cam Cannarrella (Clemson Baseball)

As for Clemson, it must regroup – and replace four seniors who provided nearly half of the team’s offensive output in 2024. A good place to start? Cannarrella, who finished second on the team in batting average (.337) runs batted in (60) and hits (83).

Expect Bakich to leverage the transfer portal extensively as he makes up for the offensive production departing with Hinderleider, Mathes, Wright and catcher Jimmy Obertop.

Clemson isn’t the only South Carolina program struggling to find its way back to Omaha. Earlier this month, the University of South Carolina Gamecocks fired head coach Mark Kingston after losing in the regional round to James Madison.

South Carolina hasn’t been to the CWS since 2012, when it lost to Arizona in the finals after winning back-to-back championships in 2010 and 2011. The last team from the Palmetto State to make it to Omaha? Coastal Carolina, which won it all in 2016.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Erin Parrott (Provided)

Erin Parrott is a Greenville, S.C. native who graduated from J. L. Mann High School in 2021. She is currently a rising senior at the University of South Carolina majoring in broadcast journalism. Got feedback or a tip for Erin? Email her here.

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2 comments

Avatar photo
The Colonel Top fan June 11, 2024 at 10:50 am

Play of the year?!? Come on – he was out of position against a known power hitter and almost gave up some runs as a result.

Poor liddle puddy tats…

Reply
Deafening Silence June 11, 2024 at 11:05 am

Where’s the Clemson fans coming to tell everyone who will listen that football trophies are the only ones that matter? They seem to get real quiet whenever Clemson approaches the CWS.

Reply

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