Clemson Clinches Top 4 Spot in ACC Championships

CLEMSON — Clemson got home runs from Caden Grice, Billy Amick and Blake Wright, as the seventh-ranked Tigers cruised to a 14-7 victory over North Carolina Thursday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

Wright finished the night with two home runs. He blasted a three-run shot in the bottom of the sixth inning and a two-run bomb in the fifth inning.

The win marked Clemson’s 10th straight and clinched a top four seed in next week’s ACC Championships. The Tigers can finish as high as second in the ACC standings and No. 3 for the tournament.

Clemson was picked to finish fifth in the ACC Atlantic Division in the league’s Preseason Poll back in January. “I don’t care,” Clemson head coach Erik Bakich said with a laugh. “I have not thought about what anyone else thinks of us. I did not even know we were picked to finish fifth.”

Nick Clayton earned his sixth win of the season after coming in for starter Ethan Darden with two outs in the fifth inning. Clayton pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings.

Darden also had a solid outing, as the freshman worked 4 2/3 innings. He gave up three runs on six hits and struck out four.

Amick again led the Tigers at the plate with four hits and three RBIs, while Will Taylor had three hits and scored three times. Grice finished his night 2-for-5 with two RBIs.

Max Carlson (4-2) suffered the loss for the Tar Heels.

Clemson (37-17, 18-10 ACC) jumped on the Tar Heels early. In the bottom of the first inning, Taylor bunted down the first base side with two outs where Carlson and first baseman Hunter Stokley both went to the ball. No one covered first base, allowing the left fielder to easily get on base.

Grice made Carlson pay for the mistake by taking his 1-1 offering to right field for a 2-0 lead.

The Tigers expanded the lead to 6-0 in the second, thanks to five straight two-out hits that plated four runs. Clemson got RBI hits from Cam Cannarella, Ingle and Amick, while two North Carolina errors allowed three more runs to score.

The Tar Heels (33-19, 14-12 ACC) cut the Clemson lead with two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth inning. However, Amick answered with a bomb to left field to lead off the bottom of the fifth, extending the Tigers lead to 7-3.

Wright, who was 3-for-4 with 5 RBIs, had a three-run homer in the sixth inning that gave the Tigers a 12-3 lead and a two-run shot in the eighth inning for a 14-3 advantage. The Tigers finished the evening with 19 hits.

Clemson has produced at least 10 hits in six straight games.

“We are working as a unit and we believe,” Wright said. “We are all bought into the approach and to what our coaches have to say day in and day out. We just believe in each other.”

Stat of the Game: In two games this week, Amick is 6-for-7 with 8 RBIs and one home run. In his last six games, he is 17-of-27 with three home runs and 17 RBIs.  

Player of the Game: Amick led the Tigers with three more RBIs thanks to a home run and 4-for-5 performance at the plate.

Key Moment: After UNC cut Clemson’s lead to three runs in the top of the fifth inning, Amick quickly shifted the momentum back to the Clemson dugout as he blasted a 2-0 offering to left field to extend the lead to 7-3. The Tigers added five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to put the game away.

Up Next: Clemson will host North Carolina in Game 2 of their three-game series Friday. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.

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