JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --- The more things change, the more they stay the same – at least that’s the case when Clemson and Wake Forest tangle on the baseball diamond.
Even though the game venue was changed from Clemson’s Doug Kingsmore Stadium to the Baseball Grounds at Jacksonville Wednesday, the top seeded Tigers continued their dominance of No. 8 seed Wake Forest with a 13-1 victory in the first round of the ACC Baseball Tournament.
“Obviously, Clemson is playing well, but we have to start playing better,” Wake Forest coach Rick Rembielak said. “Facing those guys last weekend and now is not a good last week for us.”
The only thing to stop No. 3 Clemson (44-13) from scoring more runs on the Demon Deacons was the 10-run tournament mercy rule. The Tigers finished the night with 13 hits to go along with those 13 runs.
“What they do is see the ball well,” Rembielak said. “They have a veteran ball club and I think they are very mature in their approach and understand the game well. That’s something we don’t do.
“When they swing that bat, they swing with purpose and not just for the sake of making contact.”
The Tigers outscored Wake Forest (33-21) 39-4 last weekend, including 26-1 in the opening game of the series. Wednesday’s victory was the 16th straight over Wake and the 16th overall.
“Wake Forest is a good team, but we are playing incredible right now,” right fielder D.J. Mitchell said. “We have a swagger and hopefully it will keep us winning in this tournament and keep us winning in the post season.”
Mitchell, who grew up and played high school ball just 10 miles away from the Wake Forest campus, set the tone when he robbed Wake’s Brett Linnenkohl of a second-inning home run.
“I got a good catch over in right field and things just went my way,” Mitchell said. “Winston-Salem is my hometown, but I didn’t do anything different. I was just trying to get the job done and was trying to get the win.”
When Mitchell came up to the plate in the Tigers’ bottom half of the second inning, he delivered a one-out single up the middle, scoring Taylor Harbin and Stan Widmann for a 2-0 lead.
Mitchell started in right field for Travis Storrer, who is out for the tournament after suffering an ankle injury last weekend.
“I was a little pumped up,” Mitchell said. “My nerves were going a little bit, but I was just trying to have fun.”
The freshman later hit safely again in the fifth inning, plating Widmann for a second time and a 7-1 Clemson advantage.
“He made a great play there in right field early in the ball game and put another ball in play with a hit here and there. He gives you something different than maybe some of the other guys on the team,” Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. “That’s what you have to do to be able to play on this team, when someone is hurt you have to be ready to help and with Travis out he did a good job for us tonight.”
Mitchell wasn’t the only Tiger staring in Wednesday’s win. Harbin was a home run shy of batting for the cycle in a 3 for 3 night, while Mr. Wake Forest Tyler Colvin came off his 11 of 13, 14 RBI weekend against the Deacons with a 2 for 2, one RBI night.
Starter P.J. Zocchi had his second straight solid outing. After holding the College of Charleston to five hits in a 1-0 victory last week, he followed that performance with a one-run, four hit performance Wednesday.
“I know Coach (Leggett) has a lot of faith in me right now and with the confidence he has in me I feel like I can go out there with anyone and do my job as long as I throw strikes,” Zocchi said.
Zocchi has allowed just one run in last 14 2/3 innings.
“He has been pitching really well for us,” Leggett said. “We knew he would give us a good outing tonight. We needed him tonight because that leaves us (Stephen) Faris, (Josh) Cribb and (Jason) Berken and some other guys if we are fortunate to win another game or two.”
Clemson will play Georgia Tech tonight at 7 p.m. The Yellow Jackets beat the Tigers two out of three last month in Atlanta, including a 22-4 win in Game 3.
“I hope we are a better team than we were back then,” Leggett said. “They were playing very well and they deserved to win so hopefully we can hang in there (tonight).”
Faris will get the start against Georgia Tech. He suffered the loss in the 22-4 game.