Comeback Clemson strikes again, Tigers close out ACCs with walk-off walk
Jimmy Obertop hit a game-tying three-run jack in the eighth and took four pitches to walk in the winning run. (Photo: Scott Kinser / USATODAY)

Comeback Clemson strikes again, Tigers close out ACCs with walk-off walk

by - Staff Writer -

CHARLOTTE – Comeback Clemson, again.

For the 24th time this season, Clemson (41-14) came back from a deficit to a victory, in a game that had no bearing on the remainder of the ACC Baseball Championship but could have secured a Top-8 National Seed for Erik Bakich’s Tigers – topping Louisville (32-24), 8-7.

Tied 7-all in the ninth inning, Jacob Hinderleider delivered his first hit of the game, Blake Wright followed that up with another one-out knock and Cam Cannarella rifled a single into right field to load the bases. From there, four straight balls to Jimmy Obertop from Louisville reliever Tucker Biven walked in the winning run.

"It was a tale of two games. I thought we came out flat. They jumped us with six runs right away," Bakich said. "The superpower of this team is the believability that they're going to come back."

With multiple projections as the No. 6 national seed going into Friday, the Tigers were ranked No. 7 in the RPI rankings and No. 16 in the strength of schedule. Although the Tigers’ close to the season had some warts, Clemson won 4-of-5 going into Monday’s NCAA Tournament field announcement (noon/ESPN2).

Clemson’s starting pitcher wasn’t long for a second-straight outing in the Queen City.

After Ethan Darden went just 1 1/3 innings in Thursday’s 8-7 loss to Miami, junior left-hander Rocco Reid went just one more out than that after giving up a solo homer to JT Benson in the first frame and a two-run homer off the left-field scoreboard to Luke Napleton and an RBI double to Dylan Hoy in the second inning.

The Cards got to sophomore right-hander Billy Barlow as well with a pair of runs and runners left on for freshman lefty Jacob McGovern, who settled things down for a while.

"Just more affirmation of their fight. Their resiliency," Bakich said. "Could have been real easy to mail it in today down 6-0 in the fourth, and they didn't. They just kept fighting. Just more confirming of what we already know about this team is that they have the 'it' factor and that's their superpower. Their belief, even in a game that technically won't allow them to advance, they still wanted to compete and play and play hard and play their best baseball and understand the importance of that winning feeling of competing and keep this momentum going."

Clemson’s first entrance to the scoreboard came after one-out knocks from Cannarella and Obertop – rewarded by a Tristan Bissetta RBI single to left field. The rallies were stunted from there, however, with one hit in six opportunities with runners in scoring position through five innings.

Bissetta’s one-out RBI triple in the sixth inning chased Louisville senior lefty starter Sebastian Gongora, who left with Bissetta on after scattering eight hits with six strikeouts and a walk and then three earned runs after a two-run bomb from Jacob Jarrell off of Evan Webster to cut the Louisville lead to two runs.

McGovern almost kept the deficit there and got a two-out grounder to shortstop Jacob Hinderleider, who kicked it around for the error, allowed another Louisville run and chased McGovern. McGovern was largely clutch over 3 1/3 innings with one hit allowed, two strikeouts and one walk.

The Cardinals’ lead from the first inning-on was equalized in the eighth frame after the first two Tigers reached and Obertop welcomed new righty reliever Biven (4-3) with a three-run homer that just topped the left field wall. Austin Gordon (1-2) pitched a perfect ninth to earn the win, picking up from 1 1/3 scoreless pitched from fellow reliever Drew Titsworth.

"It took a while for us to mount it (a comeback)," Bakich said. "We missed some scoring opportunities early. We needed something to happen. Two big things happened. Jacob McGovern came in and put zeros up. Only gave up a bloop single and a walk, which was awesome out of the 'pen. Then Jimmy Obertop doing what Jimmy Obertop does. Ties the game with the three-run homer and get the walk-off walk at the end. A lot of good offensive performances today to setup (him up). Everybody just really trying to string something together.

"Really proud of our club. We make it very hard on ourselves at times, but they have that 'it' factor and find a way to come back now 24 times. We're not going to give any of them away and we love the fight of this team. I know it will bode well for us going into next week."

Eleven-seed Miami won Pool B by going 2-0 versus Clemson and Louisville, advancing to face another upset victor in 6-seed Duke in Saturday’s 5 p.m. ACC semifinal.

Clemson finished the season series 3-1 versus Louisville, after a series win there earlier this season.

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