Cam Cannarella of the Clemson Tigers catches a fly ball hit by the Boston College Eagles in the ninth inning during the ACC Baseball Championship at Durham Bulls Athletic Park on May 26, 2023 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)
By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
DURHAM, N.C. – Four early runs were plenty for the Clemson Tigers, who cruised into the semifinals of the ACC Baseball Championship with a 4-1 win over Boston College at Durham Bulls Athletic Park Friday afternoon.
Clemson starter Austin Gordon threw six scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and three walks, striking out three to earn the win.
Caden Grice launched a two-run homer off the roof of the beer garden in right field to put Clemson up 2-0 in the bottom of the first.
“Austin Gordon went out there and he does what he does,” Grice said of Gordon. “He went out there and threw all his pitches for strikes, all 17 of them, and he dominated the zone. It just really came down to locating. The defense was great, and he did a really good job, so it was really fun to watch him and play behind him.”
In the second, Jack Crighton’s double to the right field corner scored Riley Bertram and Benjamin Blackwell to make it 4-0.
John West came on to pitch in the third for Boston College, retiring 12 consecutive batters before walking Clemson’s Riley Bertram, who led off the bottom of the seventh. Bertram advanced to third on a two-out single by Crighton, giving the Tigers runners at the corners and a chance to add to their lead, but West struck out B.C. leadoff man Barry Walsh to end the inning. In all, he went 5.2 innings, allowing one hit, one walk, and striking out seven.
“Westy was awesome, again. Settling that thing down… I mean, that offense is scary,” said B.C. coach Mike Gambino. “It’s hard to ever have confidence against anybody going against this Clemson lineup, but we had confidence. And not for nothing, we kept them to four runs. That’s a chance to win the baseball game.”
But as good as West was, the Clemson bullpen was working with a lead, and Nick Clayton, Rob Hughes, and Reed Garris, and Ryan Ammons combining to allow one run on one hit and only three baserunners was enough to secure the victory.
“We haven’t been able to solve John West. He’s been lights out, and quick pitching, and he’s just attacking, and it’s on you quick. And he had our number when we played them in the middle game up in Chestnut Hill, and he had our number today,” said Clemson head coach Erik Bakich. “And so we knew it was gonna be a bit of a pitcher’s duel there from the third on, and luckily Gordo held it down, and our bullpen arms did a good job.”
In the top of the ninth, Cannarella ran to the wall in the left field power alley and leapt to haul in what would have been a home run by B.C.’s Vince Cimini for the second out of the inning. The shutout was broken by the next hitter, Nick Wang, who launched a solo home run over the famous ‘Hit Bull Win Steak’ sign in left field.
“We know the report on him is a fastball that has some carry to it. And we’re looking, you know, we kind of struggled all day with balls at the top of the zone,” Cimini said. “So we’re trying to just kind of get on top of something. We talked before the inning, actually, and it was just really just trying to get on top of something, get something going in the ninth.”
After Kyle Wolff was hit by a pitch and Sam McNulty walked, Clemson head coach Erik Bakich put Ryan Ammons on the mound to face Cohl Mercado and struck him out on three pitches to end the game.
Boston College (35-18) will have to wait and see if they will be selected to host an NCAA Regional. Host sites will be announced Sunday evening. Should they be selected, it would be a program-changing event.
“Everybody – actually, nobody forgets, but five years ago, we didn’t have a baseball field, right? And that’s what the first thing anybody said about our program was that, you know, we were playing on a parking lot,” said Gambino. “There were times when it looked like this program might be discontinued, and over the years, our group of faithful donors, alumni, former players – all of them have fought and fought and fought to get us to this spot.”
NOTEBOOK – Grice, a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, will start tomorrow’s semifinal against North Carolina. He has held opponents to a .199 batting average over 62.1 innings of work for the Tigers this year, while striking out 82.
Saturday at the ACC Baseball Championship
1 p.m. – Semifinal 1 – Wake Forest vs. Miami
5 p.m. – Semifinal 2 – North Carolina vs. Clemson
All games during pool play and both semifinals will be carried on the ACC Network. Each game will air live on Sirius XM ACC Radio channel 371.