For the second day in a row, Clemson faced an All-ACC first-team pitcher. It didn’t faze the Tigers.
Reed Rohlman hit two solo home runs, and Weston Wilson and Seth Beer each clubbed another as the Tigers rallied for a 5-3 win over Louisville on Friday in the ACC baseball tournament at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
“This is an unbelievable win for our program against what I think is arguably the best team in the country,” Clemson coach Monte Lee said of the third-ranked Cardinals.
“And for us to find a way, down early (3-1), to find a way to win this game, I think it says an awful lot about our ball club, about our toughness.”
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Sixth-seeded Clemson (40-18) can clinch a spot in Sunday’s championship game by beating Wake Forest in Saturday’s 11 a.m. contest. Second-seeded Louisville isn’t eliminated from championship consideration but needs to beat UVa and have Wake beat Clemson. That would leave three teams tied at 2-1 in Pool B, and Louisville would get the nod as the highest seed.
The Tigers, ranked 12th nationally, had earned a 5-4 win Thursday over Virginia, scoring four runs off Cavaliers ace Connor Jones, who did not figure in the decision. On Friday the Tigers got four runs and five hits, including the homers by Rohlman and Wilson, to hand Louisville sophomore left-hander Brendan McKay (11-3) his first loss in over a month.
Senior right-hander Clate Schmidt (8-4) earned the win for Clemson with a masterful effort. He allowed three runs, two earned, on eight hits while striking out six and walking one in 8 2/3 innings.
“Clate Schmidt, what can you say?” Lee asked. “It doesn’t get more gutsy than that. The guy is just an absolute warrior, and the one thing that you know when Clate Schmidt pitches in big-time atmospheres and big-time games, he steps up, he elevates to the level of competition. And when we needed him the most, he got it done for us today.”
Schmidt’s toughness goes beyond the baseball diamond. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in May 2015 but has been cancer-free since July of that year. “I was given a clean bill of health beginning of September,” Schmidt said. “So treatment now is there’s no treatment, luckily, knock on wood.”
Louisville (47-11) threatened in the ninth on two-out base hits by Colin Lyman and pinch hitter Will Smith, but Clemson closer Pat Krall got the final out by retiring Corey Ray on a liner to short for his fifth save.
McKay meanwhile wasn’t at his best. Besides the three home runs, he walked five, threw three wild pitches and hit a batter while striking out four.
Rohlman’s first homer of the season in the fifth started a two-run rally that tied it for Clemson at 3-3. K.J. Bryant followed with a single to center, and two walks loaded the bases for Beer. The first pitch from McKay hit him on the right thigh to force in the tying run.
Rohlman broke the tie with his second homer in the sixth, and Beer picked up his first hit of the tournament with a home run to right in the seventh off reliever Jake Sparger. It was Beer’s league-leading 16th of the year and set a Clemson freshman record.
Wake Forest 10, Virginia 7: Wake Forest tied a season high by hitting five home runs, which the Deacons also accomplished in a 12-6 victory over Virginia Tech on May 13.
Nate Mondou, Kevin Conway, Joey Rodriguez, Will Craig and Johnny Aiello supplied the long ball for 10th-seeded Wake (34-24), which mathematically still remained in the running for a berth in Sunday’s championship game despite a 1-1 record in Pool B. Wake would advance if the Deacons beat Clemson in Saturday’s 11 a.m. game and Virginia beats Louisville in Saturday’s 7 p.m. nightcap.
The Deacons rallied after Virginia (36-20) took a 5-1 lead after 3 ½ innings. But Wake struck for three runs in the fourth and four in the fifth, getting a two-homer from Conway in the fourth and two-run shots from Joey Rodriguez and Will Craig in the fifth. Mondou hit a solo homer in the first, and Aiello had one in the sixth. Aiello also had an RBI double in the fourth, and Conway hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
Craig’s home run was his 16th of the year, tying him with Seth Beer of Clemson for the league lead.
Adam Haseley drove in three runs with three hits, including a pair of triples for UVa. Daniel Pinero collected two RBIs with his second homer of the tournament and a double, and Pavin Smith had three hits, including an RBI double.
The win went to Garrett Kelly (1-2), the second of four Wake pitchers. He took over for starter Connor Johnstone in the fourth and allowed only an unearned run in 1 2/3 innings. Craig pitched the ninth and got his eighth save despite allowing two runs.
Virginia starter Alec Bettinger (2-5) took the loss. He allowed six hits and six runs in four-plus innings, including three of the homers. The other two came off reliever Kevin Doherty.