DURHAM, N.C. — Since he got to Clemson last summer, Riley Bertram has been knocking the baseball out of the ballpark in practice.
Of course, that is practice.
The graduate transfer from Michigan, who has played in all of 60 games this year, had not hit a home run all season. And no one expected him to Sunday when he came to the plate with runners on second and third and no outs in the bottom of the seventh inning of the ACC Baseball Championship Game.
At that point, the third seeded Tigers trailed by a run to No. 4 Miami at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham.
“I was just trying to get a pitch to put something in the outfield. A sac-fly, get the runner in and luckily, it went a little bit further than I was expecting,” Bertram said while smiling.
It went about 340-feet, just barely clearing the wall in right field. The three-run homer gave the Tigers a two-run lead and spurred an eight-run seventh inning in their 11-5 victory over the Hurricanes.
“Riley is typically not known as your power guy, but he is a little Swiss Army Knife,” catcher Cooper Ingle said. “He does everything right on the field. He is always in the right place at the right time and works his butt off.
“Just to be able to see that for him in that moment, that was awesome to be a part of.”
The home run was just the third of Bertram’s career and his first as a Tiger. More importantly, it gave Clemson a 7-5 lead, a lead it did not relinquish.
“It was cool that it came in a special moment and that it helped us win the ballgame,” Bertram said.
The Tigers (43-17) added four more runs in the seventh inning to extend their lead to 11-5, clinching the program’s first ACC Championship since 2016. Clemson pounded out eight runs off six hits and one Miami error in the seventh inning.
It finished the game with 13 hits overall, while Bertram finished the afternoon 2-for-4 with four RBIs.
“The contagious offense that we have shown the past few games, and towards the end of the season, has been awesome,” Bertram said. “It helps us. The pitching staff, when they get zeroes, there is no panic on our side either.
“We just need to get that leadoff (man) on base and that happened today in the seventh. Cooper Ingle had a tough at-bat, followed by Will Taylor’s swing. It just kind of kept going on. It feels good.”
It feels so good enough that the Tigers are likely to be a top 5 seed and will be hosting a regional when the NCAA Selection Committee announces the top 8 seeds and the rest of the tournament field Monday at noon.
–Photo courtesy of Clemson Athletic Communications
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