Clemson Returns Home to Face No. 2 Wake Forest

Clemson gets set for one of its toughest tests of the season, as the Tigers will return home to host second-ranked Wake Forest in a three-game ACC series.

Who – Wake Forest (23-3, 7-2 ACC) vs. Clemson (16-10, 2-4 ACC)
Best Ranking – WFU – No. 2 D1Baseball, USA Today; CU – NR
When – Thursday (7 p.m.), Friday (6 p.m.), Saturday (2 p.m.)
Where – Clemson, S.C. (Doug Kingsmore Stadium)
Watch – ACC Network (Thursday), ACC Network Extra (Friday, Saturday)

Overall Record – Clemson leads 142-60-1 (1901-2022)
Record at Clemson – Clemson leads 72-23-1 (1901-2021)

Erik Bakich’s team comes in fresh off a 10-3 dismantling of College of Charleston in Columbia on Tuesday and have won two straight, but his Clemson team is still looking for its first series win in ACC play.

“We’re just striving to get better,” Bakich said. “We have shown that we have this razor thin margin. We can play a lot of the woulda, shoulda, coulda good game, but no sense in doing that now, that’s all rearview mirror stuff. These last two games look like we’ve made a lot of positive strides. The goal is just to keep getting better.”

Austin Gordon will once again get the nod in the series opener on Thursday, with Caden Grice slated to start the series finale on Saturday. However, Bakich has yet to name a starter for the second game of the series.

Freshman Tristan Smith has pitched in that spot since the South Carolina series, but after walking four in just 1.1 innings in his last start against Georgia Tech, it looks like Bakich is keeping his options open. Smith did rebound with a strong inning of relief in the win against College of Charleston, striking out two of the three batters he faced.

The Demon Deacons feature one of the best pitchers in the nation in Rhett Lowder. He is 5-0 on the season and has allowed just six earned runs in 38 innings pitched. He has struck out 48 and walked just seven. Sean Sullivan and Josh Hartle have both been equally as effective, as both come in with an ERA under 2.00.

Thursday – RHP Rhett Lowder (WFU) vs. RHP Austin Gordon (CU)
Friday – LHP Sean Sullivan (WFU) vs. TBA (CU)
Saturday – LHP Josh Hartle (WFU) vs. LHP Caden Grice (CU)

Bakich has liked a of of what he’s seen from his team of late. Caden Grice seems to have found his power stroke, hitting four home runs in the past three games. Blake Wright has started to heat up as well, recording six hits and five RBI over the same span.

“If we keep getting guys healthy and keep getting more contributions like we’re getting from guys heating up like Caden and Blake and contributions up and down the lineup, getting some freshmen some very valuable experience, we could be a dangerous team as the season progresses,” he said.

• Clemson, who has a 13-5 home record, defeated College of Charleston 10-3 at Columbia, S.C. on Tuesday.
• The Tigers are averaging 7.1 runs per game and hitting .291 with a .444 slugging percentage, .392 on-base percentage and 54 steals.
• The pitching staff has a 4.79 ERA, .269 opponents’ batting average and 2.47 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and Clemson is fielding .973.

• Wake Forest, who has a 5-2 road record and is averaging 10.1 runs per game, is led by 14th-year Head Coach Tom Walter.
• The Demon Deacons downed High Point 12-3 on the road on Tuesday. They are hitting .310 and have a 2.12 ERA and .979 fielding percentage.
• Tommy Hawke is hitting .436, Brock Wilken is batting .333 with 14 homers and 42 RBIs and Cam Minacci has a team-high six saves.

• Five Tigers have active double-digit-game on-base streaks, Cannarella (23), Ingle (20), Taylor (17), Blackwell (13), Bertram (10).
• Clemson’s bullpen has a 4.61 ERA, .284 opponents’ batting average and 132 strikeouts against 58 walks in 130.2 innings pitched in 2023.
• A total of 13 Tigers have pitched at least 10.0 innings in 2023.

• Junior righty Nick Clayton changed his arm slot to the side prior to the season, and it has paid dividends.
• He is 2-0 with a 2.20 ERA, .241 opponents’ batting average and 15 strikeouts against three walks in 16.1 innings pitched over 11 outings.
• He has only allowed two extra-base hits thanks in large part to 23 groundball outs compared to nine flyball outs.
• He is holding opponents to .179 with runners on base.
• He has only allowed one of eight inherited baserunners to score.
• He pitched 3.0 perfect innings in relief with four strikeouts to earn the win in Clemson’s 8-5 walkoff victory over Winthrop on March 21.
• In his career, he is 9-3 with a save, 4.10 ERA, .255 opponents’ batting average and 86 strikeouts in 94.1 innings pitched over 47 outings.

*Clemson Athletic Communications contributed to this story.

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