|by David Hood|
He let out a primal scream.
McGibbon came off the bench to launch a game-tying homer in the sixth and Steve Wilkerson’s single through the right side scored Tyler Slaton with the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth as fifth-seeded Clemson knocked off the Hurricanes 3-2 at NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro.
Clemson plays Georgia Tech at 3 p.m. Friday, and the winner of that contest will play in Sunday’s ACC title game.
For the moment however, McGibbon and his teammates can savor the win, and the senior made sure that all of them know there are still games left to play.
“I am just trying to be a leader for my guys,” McGibbon told TigerNet after the game. “That was an exciting moment. I always like showing my emotions playing baseball. I was just trying to get the guys fired up in any way possible. I know that I kind of let loose there with that scream at the end, but it was all to get the guys pumped up. I was able to hit the home run and tie the game up and produce an exciting moment for us.”
McGibbon then said that winning the ACC Tournament would bring a small measure of consolation to a team that has taken a beating on the message boards this season.
“That would be huge for us. Every team comes into this tournament with one goal in mind and that's to win an ACC Championship and that's what we came in here trying to accomplish,” McGibbon said. “We are rolling at the right time and we have to keep it going tomorrow against a good Georgia Tech team. We're just going to have to keep producing like we're capable of doing.”
Headed into the ninth tied at 2-2, Slaton drew a leadoff walk. Following a fly out to left field, Duggar singled to put runners at first and second with one out. Wilkerson then rifled a single through the right side, scoring Slaton and setting off a wild celebration near first base.
Clemson starter Daniel Gossett outpitched Chris Diaz, the ACC Co-Pitcher of the Year. Diaz left the game in the fifth due to a rising pitch count, but Gossett didn’t leave until there was one out in the ninth. Gossett allowed just seven hits, two runs and two walks with eight strikeouts in 8.1 innings pitched.
Miami head coach Jim Morris said Gossett is the best pitcher the ‘Canes have seen all season before saying that the Tigers belong in the NCAA Tournament.
“He pitched a great game. We beat them 1-0 up at Clemson earlier this season, and he was outstanding that night,” Morris said. “We knew we would be in a battle, and he did his job. Now, if you’re asking me if Clemson is one of the 64 best teams in the nation the answer is yes. The league deserves at least eight teams in the NCAA.”
Head coach Jack Leggett said his team battled all night, and he hoped the Tigers could get to the bottom of the ninth with a chance to win.
“We really battled all night out there,” Leggett said. “I couldn’t be more proud of how the team battled. We kind of had a feeling that if we could hold them down we would figure out something and come away with the win.”
Gossett said that out-pitching Diaz wasn’t on his mind – he just wanted the win.
“Every game is the same,” Gossett said. “I just wanted to go out there and make quality pitches, and it didn’t matter who I was facing. I knew I would have to have my stuff, and go out there and battle. It wasn’t anything special. I just had to make quality pitches.”
Wilkerson said that he and McGibbon – two seniors – are trying to use their experience to be leaders down the stretch.
“Coming into the tournament, we knew every game would be a battle,” Wilkerson said. “Miami has a lot of good guys on that team. Being a senior, it was fun to win and pull that one out.”
* Steve Wilkerson’s RBI single with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning keyed fifth- seeded Clemson past top-seeded Miami 3-2, and gave Tiger head coach Jack Leggett his 1,300th career victory. The win snapped the Tigers’ six-game losing streak to the Hurricanes
* Clemson is 7-8 on the year in one-run games while Miami is 13-3. Miami is 13-17 all-time in ACC Tournament play with one title while Clemson is 105-65 with nine championships. Wednesday’s game marked the 89th meeting between the two teams
* Miami leads the overall series 52-36 with two ties.
* Miami’s Jim Morris (1,431) and Clemson’s Jack Leggett (1,300) have combined for 2,731 career wins ... Morris is fourth among active NCAA wins leaders while Leggett is fifth.
* In three career starts against Miami, Clemson’s Daniel Gossett is 1-0 with a 1.11 ERA ... in 24 1/3 innings versus the Hurricanes, the Lyman, S.C., junior has allowed only three earned runs on 17 hits while striking out 31.
Great team win tonight! Could ask for a better group of guys! Love this team! #notdoneyet #ACC #championship— Daniel Gossett (@DGossett23) May 23, 2014
* Miami’s Dale Carey turned in his second-straight multi-hit game with a career-high four hits in five at bats ... in two ACC Tournament games, Carey is 7-for-9 (.778) with a double and a home run and has raised his batting average from .295 to .314.
* Clemson’s Steve Wilkerson had two hits in four at bats and has at least one hit in 18 of his last 21 games ... is second on the team in hitting with a .321 average.
* In five career ACC Tournament games in Greensboro’s Newbridge Bank Park (in 2012 and 2014), Clemson’s Jon McGibbon is 7-for-17 (.412) with a double, three home runs and six RBIs.
David Hood can be reached at email@example.com