Tigers hold on to continue NCAAs push with series-clincher over Deacs

by - Staff Writer -
Jacob Hennessy tied a career-high with 7 1/3 innings of work for the win. (Photo by David Grooms)
Jacob Hennessy tied a career-high with 7 1/3 innings of work for the win. (Photo by David Grooms)

CLEMSON - Monte Lee’s Tigers held on late to continue their push for an NCAA Tournament bid with a 10-9 win over Wake Forest to clinch the series on Friday.

Clemson (33-22, 15-14 ACC) went into the Wake Forest series as one of the last teams in the projected NCAA Tournament field for D1Baseball.com and Baseball America but the win Friday marked a third-straight victory for the Tigers.

"It's big for us. I don't think we've solidified anything. We need to find a way to win tomorrow's game," Lee said postgame. "I told the team that tomorrow's really a two-game swing...There's a big difference between being 15-15 (in the ACC) and 16-14...We need a way to find a way to win tomorrow's game and if we do that I think we're in good shape. If we don't, we'll be sitting right there where we are right now on the bubble.

"I think tomorrow's game has huge implications on the postseason."

The Deacs (29-25, 13-16) jumped on top first but Clemson took control early.

Wake Forest first baseman Bobby Seymour continued to his nation-leading RBI run with a run-scoring single in the first. Clemson left-handed starter Jacob Hennessy, who was a late move up to the No. 2 Friday starting role in place of freshman Davis Sharpe, limited the potential Deacs damage, however, stranding the bases loaded with his third strikeout of the frame. After giving up four hits there, Hennessy (4-1) held Wake Forest to two hits over his final 6 2/3 innings of work. He tied a career-high with 7 1/3 innings of work on the day, allowing two earned runs.

"We desperately needed a great start out of Jacob Hennessy and he gave us the biggest start of the year probably," Lee said.

The second frame was the start of a long four-inning stint for Wake Forest lefty starter Jared Shuster (4-4).

Right fielder Michael Green got the Tigers on the board and in the lead with a two-RBI double, which was the start of three consecutive run-producing knocks for Clemson. Left fielder Chad Fairey, center fielder Bryce Teodosio and third baseman Justin Hawkins all logged an RBI in the seven-hit inning.

After an inning respite, Clemson’s bats barraged Shuster again for three more runs on three hits - first baseman Byrd bringing in two runs on a home run to center field and Hawkins stealing home during a double-steal to go up 8-1 in the fourth. Byrd is in the middle of a hot streak at the plate, where those RBIs were his eighth and ninth of the week and the home run was a ninth in the last 12 games (nine of his 14 home runs on the season too).

Shuster completed the fourth but not before finishing with surrendering eight runs (seven earned) on 12 hits with six strikeouts to one walk.

Wake Forest mounted a threat in the final two innings to put the Clemson faithful on edge late.

Seymour tacked on three more RBIs with a home run to left field in the eighth. Clemson answered right back, however, with RBI hits from Kyle Wilkie and Green. Then in the ninth, Wake Forest loaded the bases with no one out and a grand slam from Deacs left fielder Chris Lanzilli brought them within a run. Carson Spiers got Clemson out of the jam with a flyout to center field.

Green went 4-for-5, including two doubles, with three RBIs. Byrd, Hawkins and Wilkie all scored two runs a piece.

On a three-game streak now, Clemson is on its longest run since late March (four games). The Tigers are going for a first series sweep since that same run (at Virginia Tech) with the 12:30 p.m. first pitch on Saturday to wrap the ACC regular season. Wilkie, a team captain, said the team has played loose this week.

"I think the past few games we've played more carefree," said Wilkie. "Not really lackadaisical but more carefree to where we're just going to play the next pitch and whatever happens, happens. I think that's our thing. You can't press too much and that's one of the things we told ourselves is we're not going to press, we're going to have fun and we're going to play hard and let whatever happens, happen."

Lee said that the freshman starter Sharpe was pushed back a day to due to soreness but is expected to be ready to start Saturday's game.

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