CLEMSON — It’s a tale as old as time.
Okay, maybe not time, but at least as old as baseball.
A team gives everything they have to win one game that when they don’t, it usually beats them a second time.
That was the case Sunday afternoon at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson. A little more than 12 hours after having their heart ripped out by Tennessee in one of the best baseball games of the 2023 season, Clemson lost to Charlotte, 3-2, in the elimination game of the Clemson Regional.
The Tigers, who finished the season 44-19, were the No. 4 overall seed.
“It probably looked exactly like it was, it looked like we were emotionally drained. That would be accurate,” Clemson head coach Erik Bakich said. “That was not from a lack of effort. There was not much in the tank.
“I thought we dug down and dug deep.”
It was no secret Clemson’s lack of energy was due to who was not in the lineup, as opposed to who was. Centerfield Cam Cannarella could not play after being suspended by the NCAA due to his ejection in the 13th inning of the Volunteers’ victory Saturday night.
He was tossed by second base umpire Angel Campos after saying a few choice words to Tennessee’s Zane Denton. Campos’ decision to toss Cannarella drew the ire of many, especially considering both players were walking away from each other and back to their respected dugouts when Cannarella was tossed.
Cannarella has been the tone setter all year, leading off for the Tigers. His .388 average at the top of lineup was definitely missed against Charlotte.
“You certainly see that the offense felt out of sorts today. I don’t know if it was because Cam was not in there or if we were just emotionally drained,” Bakich said. “But this time of the year you have to try to find that adrenaline rush and find that next gear and go for it. We just fell short today.”
The ACC’s Freshman of the Year was also missed in the outfield, evident by a seventh-inning error that plated the 49ers’ winning run.
With one out and the game tied at 2-2, Charlotte’s Spencer Nolan hit a ground ball to shortstop. Clemson’s Benjamin Blackwell fielded the ball cleanly, but his throw was too tall for Billy Amick on first base, which allowed Nolan to reach safely.
Amick is not Clemson’s regular first baseman. That’s a spot occupied by Caden Grice, who instead was playing centerfield in place of Cannarella. Odds are Grice’s 6-foot-5 height would have given him a better opportunity to make the catch.
After Blake Jackson grounded out to second base, moving Nolan to second, Jack Dragum singled through the left side to score Nolan with the eventual game-winning run.
“We stayed up half the night drawing up depth charts,” Bakich said. “Does Caden catch the ball? Maybe, but I don’t know if that factored in or not. We would not be (ACC) champions without Cam Cannarella and his competitive fire.
“He is as competitive as it gets, and I love that about him. That is what makes him great.”
And that is what Clemson missed on Sunday, and now it has to watch the rest of the tournament from home. It’s a shame someone else made that decision.
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