CLEMSON — The Tiger faithful waited five years for Friday afternoon.
Erik Bakich waited 21 years. In the end, they both got what they came to Clemson for, an opening-round victory at the Clemson Regional.
The Tigers, hosting in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2018, knocked off Lipscomb 12-5 on Friday behind a raucous crowd that went nuts in the first inning on Caden Grice’s two-run home run and exploded in the eighth when Billy Amick blew the game open with a grand slam.
“That’s what I think of when I think of Clemson baseball,” Bakich said after the win that puts Clemson in the winner’s bracket. “I think of an environment like we saw today.
“It’s great for this community. It’s great for all the alums and just the Clemson family to have baseball and softball hosting in the postseason here and what that does to allow people to rally around their Clemson Tigers and come support these great student-athletes.”
Bakich worked on Jack Leggett’s 2002 staff when the Tigers won home and super regionals to advance to the College World Series, so he already knew how advantageous an amped-up Doug Kingsmore Stadium can be for his guys.
As it turned out, the Tigers needed it in Game 1. The fourth-seeded Bisons led 4-3 heading into the bottom of the fifth, but the Tigers responded with three runs in that frame followed by one in the seventh and five in the eighth.
“Great game, much closer than the score ended up being,” Bakich said. “It was a nip-tuck game there for most of the game we had battled back from a deficit.”
The home crowd certainly helped, especially when the Tigers needed two-out hits to score runs.
“That’s my first time ever being in the (NCAAs) at Doug Kingsmore,” Grice said. “It was an awesome feeling just seeing all those faces out there supporting the Tigers. We all fed off of it and we look forward to keep saying that.”
The Tigers also ended a three-year drought (including the COVID-19 season) from being in the field of 64. So the Clemson fans had a lot of pent-up energy that needed to escape.
And it did, which helped fuel the Tigers to their 17th-consecutive victory and into Saturday’s 6 p.m. showdown with the winner of No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 3 Charlotte.
“Appreciate DKS rocking and it felt like a 10th-man atmosphere out there,” Bakich said. “The packed house, I know our players genuinely appreciate just the atmosphere of the environment, the noise, the claps with two strikes, just being into it and really feeling like we had a home-field advantage. So I really appreciate that.”
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