DURHAM, N.C.- Caden Grice’s grand slam in the top of the sixth highlighted a seven run inning that broke open a close game and paced No. 3 seed Clemson to a 14-5 win over No. 10 seed Virginia Tech on Wednesday night in pool play of the ACC Tournament.
Every Clemson hitter but two had at least one base hit, with Cooper Ingle, Billy Amick, Riley Bertram and Grice all leading the way with multi-hit games.
“It wasn’t easy,” head coach Erik Bakich said. “Not the typical script of a game, so just proud of our guys.”
With the win the Tigers improve to 40-14 and now have a 13-game winning streak. They have also won 11 straight over ACC competition.
Virginia Tech finishes the season at 30-22.
Hokies starter Drue Hackenberg kept Clemson in check over the first five innings and was one out away from getting out of a jam in the sixth, but a dropped fly ball allowed the Tigers to score a total of seven runs in the frame, all with two outs.
“The first five and a half innings it was quite the battle,” Bakich said. “It was tough for us to solve Drue Hackenberg, he was electric tonight. Just a good fastball, a nasty slider. He was throwing the slider in any count, it was tough.”
Hackenberg would end up taking the loss, dropping to 5-8 on the season. He went 5.2 innings and allowed seven runs on seven hits, with only three of those being earned. He also struck out eight and walked just one.
BJ Bailey picked up the win for Clemson in relief and moves to 2-2 this season.
The Hokies got going early, plating a run in the first as Carson DeMartini laced a two-strike, two out hit down the right-field line for an RBI triple.
The Tigers would respond in the second with some two-out magic of their own, as Benjamin Blackwell drove in Bertram to tie it up at 1-1. Virginia Tech wasted no time in retaking the lead, as Eduardo Malinowski’s run scoring single in the bottom half of the inning put the Hokies up 2-1. It also marked the end of starting pitcher Joe Allen’s day, as he lasted just 1.1 innings, allowing two runs on five hits.
Clemson would come right back in the third. With one out, a sacrifice fly plated one run. Caden Grice would then walk and come around to score on Billy Amick’s two-out double into the right-field corner, giving the Tigers their first lead at 3-2.
DeMartini would strike again in the bottom of the fourth. With runners on second and third and two outs he laced a two-strike pitch into left to put Virginia Tech back on top. Pinch hitter Sam Tackett would follow that up with a single to plate DeMartini, giving the Hokies a 5-3 lead.
The Tigers would strike back in the sixth. With two out and runners on second and third, Jacob Jarrell skied one to shallow left field that Jack Hurley could not come up with. Both runners came around to score, tying it back up. Cam Cannarella would follow that up with a 12-pitch at bat that resulted in him driving in Jarrell with a line drive to centerfield, ending Hackenberg’s day.
“Obviously, we caught a break with the 2-run error,” Bakich said. “It happens to the best of us. Jack Hurley is one of the best in the conference. I thought that was the turning point.”
The Tigers were not done, though. After Ingle singled and Taylor was hit by a pitch, the bases were loaded for Grice and he launched a moonshot out to right center, giving him a school record third grand slam this season and his 15th home run.
Clemson would tack on some insurance in the final two innings. The first came on an RBI single by Bertram in the eighth. Then in the ninth, Amick singled with the bases loaded to drive in a run and Jack Crighton scored on a throwing error to make it 14-5.
“We had some very competitive at bats, ran the bases well,” Bakich said. “Just a good team win to start things off.”
Player of the Game: After striking out his first two times up, Grice’s grand slam in the top of the sixth broke this one wide open. He finished the night 2-for-4 and is now hitting .300, while leading the team with 15 home runs and 58 RBI.
Stat of the Game: The Tigers stole six bases in this one, with Bertram and Blackwell both swiping two each. They now have 90 this season.
Up Next: Clemson finishes up pool play on Friday, facing off against Boston College in what amounts to a winner take all game. First pitch is set for 11 a.m. and the winner moves on to the semifinal of the ACC Championship.
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