It was the cherry on top for Clemson baseball.
After Boston College right fielder Donovan Casey gunned down the potential winning run at home plate in the bottom of the 9th inning to preserve a 2-2 tie, Seth Beer sent John Nicklas’ breaking ball sailing over the right-field fence in the bottom of the 10th to hand the No. 22 Tigers (16-3, 5-1 Atlantic Coast) a 3-2 walk-off win that completed their weekend sweep of the Eagles (12-6, 2-4).
BC entered the weekend on the wings of a series win against No. 8 NC State that garnered the program national attention as a team on the rise. But Beer wasn’t impressed.
Ranked by Perfect Game as the No. 1 outfielder in the nation in his class, Beer skipped his senior year of high school to join Clemson in January, and he hasn’t missed a beat. Beer tallied two doubles, two home runs, and three RBI as part of his six-hit weekend—the last of which gave the Tigers their seventh consecutive win.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone quite like him,” BC head coach Mike Gambino said.
As disappointing as the weekend was for Gambino’s club, the outcome certainly wasn’t a product of a lack of effort. The Eagles scraped across one run in each of the first two innings to take an early lead in the series finale. Freshman Jacob Stevens tossed six innings of shutout ball before an Eli White solo homer in the 7th inning sent him packing. Closer Justin Dunn couldn’t hold the slim lead in the 9th inning, but Casey’s cannon of a throw to catcher Nick Sciortino delayed the walk off until the following frame.
Saturday’s contest saw BC’s strong suits—pitching and defense—go down the drain in a 6-1 defeat which marked the squad’s first back-to-back losses of the season.
The Eagles opened the scoring in the 2nd inning in textbook Gambino fashion. Casey led off with a double, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Sciortino, and advanced home after Stephen Sauter finally rolled a chopper to shortstop to cap off a nine-pitch at-bat against Clemson starter Charlie Barnes.
Unfortunately for Gambino, small ball only works if you avoid big innings on defense.
The Tigers broke the game open with a four-run 4th inning, and the catalyst of the scoring barrage was none other than Beer. The 6-foot-2 lefty smashed a double off of the wall to start the inning before starter Jesse Adams walked a pair to load the bases. It appeared as if Adams would escape the inning unscathed after he induced two straight infield popouts, but a bases-loaded, two-out walk quickly erased such hopes.
Clemson tacked on three more runs before Adams could stop the bleeding, thanks to a bad hop on shortstop Johnny Adams and a dropped fly ball by Casey. Three walks, two errors, and four easily preventable runs that essentially put the game out of reach with Barnes on the rubber for the Tigers.
Barnes allowed just four hits, striking out four in 7.2 innings of one-run ball. As was the case throughout the series, BC attacked the starting pitcher early but actually took worse at-bats as the game progressed, especially against Clemson’s lights-out bullpen.
On Friday, the Eagles lost 6-2 in a game that was closer than the scoresheet reflects.
Mike King did his best to keep BC within striking range, but timely (and somewhat lucky) hitting by Clemson ruined an otherwise solid performance from Gambino’s bonafide ace. Despite consistently hitting his spots on the outside corner, King found himself in trouble in the second inning while working against Andrew Cox with two outs and runners at first and second. Cox poked a blooper into center that fell just in front of Michael Strem, scoring Robert Jolly from second and giving Clemson a 1-0 lead.
Adam Renwick would take Cox’s cue and fight one off the end of his bat—this time to right field—that dropped in front of Casey and scored Beer from second in another piece of clutch hitting.
When a nationally ranked team puts runs up on the board early against your ace on the road, it can suck the life out of a dugout. But BC continued to stay on its toes, piecing together some of the best at-bats of the weekend in the third inning against the Tigers’ newly-crowned Friday night starter, Clate Schmidt. Sauter didn’t waste any time, hammering Schmidt’s first pitch of the inning over the fence in right field to cut the Clemson lead to 2-1. Adams, the next hitter, found the sweet spot again, but the left fielder was there to snag the lineout.
With one out, Schmidt left a pitch up in the zone and Gabriel Hernandez made him pay. The senior left fielder lifted the pitch into right center, and Beer could only watch as it sailed over his head to even the score at 2-2.
But once again, it was Beer with an emphatic answer.
Before the Eagles could bask in the glory of their unusual burst of power (they only have six home runs all year), Beer belted a two-run, go-ahead homer on one of King’s few mistakes of the day. The moonshot would be all the Tigers needed, as Schmidt settled nicely into a groove, allowing only two hits the rest of the way and striking out a career-high 11 in seven innings of work.
Let’s face it: BC will be facing Top-25 teams all season long, and it can’t rely on its bats to win such games. Gambino knows the importance of pitching and defense to this veteran group, and it needs to be reinforced throughout practice this week.
But the Eagles shouldn’t be too upset. It would’ve felt nice to come home from South Carolina with at least one win to show for their efforts this weekend, but they ran up against a hot-hitting ball club in Clemson. The ACC is a hotbed for young MLB talent, and Seth Beer reminded BC of the conference’s raw, unstoppable talent the hard way.
Featured Image by Daniella Fasciano / Heights Senior Staff