Grice Set to Face Dangerous Tennessee Team In Winner’s Bracket Matchup

CLEMSON- Clemson (44-17) and Tennessee (39-19) are set to meet on Saturday in the winner’s bracket game of the Clemson regional.

Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello knows his team will have to be at their best to beat a Tigers’ team that is riding a 17-game winning streak after its 12-5 win over Lipscomb. It’s the longest Clemson winning streak since 2006.

“When you look at them, they play organized, and well-coached ball,” Vitello said Friday night. “And they rarely make mistakes.”

Coming into the season expectations were high for the Volunteers. After beginning the season ranked No. 2 in D1 Baseball’s Top 25, Tennessee has seen its share of ups and downs that has them playing on the road as a 2-seed in the Clemson regional. Much of that inconsistency has been due to poor play away from home, as coming into the weekend the Volunteers were just 4-12 in true road games, with two of those wins coming in Columbia against the Gamecocks in the final series of the regular season.

However, Vitello’s team had no issues playing in Doug Kingsmore. Behind a dominant start from Andrew Lindsey, who served as the team’s Friday starter over the final few weeks of the season, Tennessee crushed Charlotte 8-1 on Friday night.

Chase Dollander, who many consider to be the team’s top pitching prospect, will get the nod on Saturday. While he didn’t pitch in the SEC Tournament, the hard-throwing right-hander is coming off of his best start of the season against the Gamecocks two weeks ago. He allowed two runs on two hits while striking out 13 in 5.1 innings.

For the season, Dollander is 6-6 with a 4.28 ERA. He’s also surrendered 12 home runs, and coming into the weekend, the starting pitcher readily admitted the Vols are still looking to be a more consistent away from home.

“We haven’t really proven ourselves on the road for the season,” Dollander told media earlier this week. “Coming off of South Carolina and having that series win and going to Hoover and we got bounced pretty early, so coming back and just being able to regroup and refocus on what we need to do and having that rest is going to be huge for us. Being able to prepare like we need to do for the first game of the (regional), in our eyes, everything starts back over. The record is 0-0. We have to go out there and throw our best stuff and play our best baseball in order to win.”

As a staff, Tennessee comes in with a very impressive ERA of 3.68 and a team WHIP of 1.16.

On top of the pitching, the Volunteers bring a lineup full of power bats into Saturday’s matchup with top-seeded Clemson. Only five teams in the country have hit more home runs this season. Five players in the lineup have hit at least 12 long balls, including Christian Moore and Griffin Merritt, who both went deep in the win over the 49ers.

“Tennessee, obviously has been a juggernaut in college baseball these last few years,” Clemson head coach Erik Bakich said on Friday. “And it’s well documented what they’ve done with their pitching staff this year.”

The Tigers will send Caden Grice to the mound. On top of being one of Clemson’s top hitters in the middle of the lineup, the junior left-hander has also been the teams most consistent pitcher. After being inserted into the weekend rotation in the middle of March, Grice has gone 8-1 and sports an ERA of 3.25. He has struck out 91 hitters in 69.1 innings and opponents are hitting just .198 against him.

Grice has also been getting it done at the plate of late, homering four times in the past six games, including a 2-run shot in the first inning of the win over the Bisons. Grice now has a team-leading 17 homers and 66 RBI.

However, Grice hasn’t been doing it alone. The Tigers have gotten consistency from spots one through nine in the batting order, as evidenced by the team’s .302 batting average. Billy Amick has been a key component of the turnaround that saw Clemson rebound from a 2-8 start in conference play to an ACC Championship and the No. 4 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. After his big grand slam on Friday, Amick has 13 home runs and 63 runs driven in.

“Everyone’s good at this point,” Bakich said. “The team that is going to win is the team that is going to play the best.”

First pitch is set for 6 p.m. The winner will play in the winner’s bracket on Sunday at 6 p.m. while the loser will face the winner of Saturday’s loser’s bracket between Lipscomb and Charlotte on Sunday at noon in what will be an elimination game.


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