Despite an attempted late inning comeback, the Clemson baseball team’s heroics fell just short, losing the Sunday game 2-3 and the series 1-2 to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Mack Anglin received the loss on the mound for the Tigers in the relatively low scoring affair.
Carter Raffield made his second start of the season for the Tigers Sunday against Notre Dame. The righty received a no decision for his four efforts of work earlier this week against East Tennessee State.
Raffield looked good in his first inning of work despite plunking Notre Dame designated hitter with a pitch. He struck out two batters and faced just four in the inning.
The Tigers had a bit more success at the plate than the Irish in the first inning. Right fielder Dylan Brewer reached base on a walk and James Parker singled into left field, but designated hitter Davis Sharpe left the pair stranded when he struck out looking to end the inning.
The Fighting Irish found their own success in the second inning, despite not being able to push a run across the plate. Raffield walked the first batter of the inning before giving up a double to Notre Dame right fielder Brooks Coetzee, putting two in scoring position with one out. Raffield found himself in a bases-loaded jam after walking the next batter.
And much like the rest of the Tigers’ pitching staff, Raffield found a way out of the jam without giving up a run, striking out a batter and inducing a fly ball to end the inning. The Irish stranded three runners on base.
The Tigers loaded the bases following two walks and a hit batter by Notre Dame starter Christian Scafidi. Third baseman Max Wagner rolled into a double play to the shortstop, but pushed Caden Grice across home plate to score the first run of the game. Despite seemingly getting himself out of the jam, the Irish pulled Scafidi after just 1 ⅔ innings pitched in favor of left handed pitcher Joe Sheridan. Sheridan forced Clemson catcher Cooper Ingle to fly out to left field to end the inning. Ingle’s first hit still eluded him two innings into his second start of the season.
Raffield quickly picked up the first two outs in the third inning despite almost hitting Putz with another pitch. Putz failed to move his bat out of the way and the ball rolled foul. Then, like clockwork, Raffield walked the next two batters putting runners on first and second with two outs.
Assistant coach Andrew See made the trip out the mound and brought the hook with him. Raffield’s day was done after just 2 ⅔ innings despite not allowing a run. Redshirt freshman Mack Anglin relieved Raffield and immediately walked his first batter to load the bases for the Irish. And almost as if the Tigers like toying with their opponents, Anglin struck out the next batter, ending the inning. The Irish left the bases loaded for the second inning in a row.
The Tigers were unable to manufacture much offense in the third inning, picking up no hits in the inning. Despite no hits, the Tigers did have three separate batters reach base, which started when Brewer was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Kier Meredith and James Parker both rolled into what looked like double plays, but both beat out the throw at first to reach base safely. Davis Sharpe ended the inning by grounding out to the shortstop.
Anglin recorded a pair of strikeouts in the fourth inning and stranded Notre Dame third baseman Jack Brannigan, who reached on a walk, at third base.
The Tigers refused to go down in order in the bottom of the fourth, but also refused to send more than three batters to the plate. After Regan Reid’s one-out single, Alex Urban grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Notre Dame second baseman led off the fifth inning with a single and scored from second base on catcher David LaManna’s single into center field after advancing on a wild pitch. Anglin recovered after giving up the run, retiring the next two batters.
The Tigers looked ready to reclaim the lead in the fifth, when Ingle and Brewer stood on second and third with one out in the inning and red hot Kier Meredith due up. Meredith struck out for just the fourth time all season, bringing up James Parker with two outs. Liam Simmon came on pitch for the Irish with two outs in the inning. Like Meredith before him, Parker struck out swinging leaving two runners stranded in scoring position.
Notre Dame was successful where the Tigers were not just a half inning prior. Anglin hit a batter with a pitch to start the inning. Again coach See made the trip to the mound to pull his pitcher from the game. This time Nick Hoffman came to the mound for the Tigers. The righty then gave up a single and two run double. Notre Dame claimed their first lead of the day. Clemson again made a pitching change, pulling Hoffman after recording just one out.
Into the game came redshirt freshman lefty Geoffrey Gilbert, one of Clemson’s most reliable arms out of the bullpen. Gilbert did what he normally does, despite scaring Tiger fans in the process. The Bishop England product gave up two deep fly ball outs, minimizing the damage done by the Irish in the inning and stranding a runner at third base.
After Sharpe struck out for the second time on the day to lead off the sixth inning, Caden Grice hit his fourth home run of the season, bringing him to a tie for second place in the conference and cutting Notre Dame’s lead in half. The next two Tigers went down in order, leaving the team with a one-run deficit heading into the final three frames of the game.
Gilbert continued his sensational pitching effort in the seventh, retiring the Irish in order for the first time all game. The lefty again did so counter to his normal strikeout nature, inducing three straight fly ball outs.
Simmon returned the favor in the bottom of the inning, picking up two strikeouts as the Tigers went down in order.
After shortstop Zack Prajzner almost took Gilbert’s 0-1 offering deep to left field, hooking just foul, he hit a double down the left field line. Third baseman Jack Brannigan came to the plate and attempted to bunt Prajzner over to third base. However, with a bunt directly back to Gilbert on the mound, the shortstop was thrown out attempting to advance. The umpiring crew took the bang-bang play to video review and were unable to overturn the initial out call. Brannigan, who advanced to second on his own bunt after the Tigers’ defense failed to cover the base, was picked off at second base following a run down for the second out of the inning. This immediately proved to be an important out as Spencer Myers took the 0-2 offering into center field for a single, a hit that certainly would have scored Brannigan from second. However, Putz flew out stranding Myers and ending the inning.
The Tigers struggled to make anything happen offensively in the eighth, going down in order for the second consecutive inning, including another two strikeouts.
Gilbert returned to the mound to start the ninth inning. He hit Notre Dame second baseman Jared Miller with his 3-2 offering to put a runner on with no outs. Despite forcing the next batter to pop out to the infield, redshirt sophomore Rob Hughes came on pitch against the right handed LaManna. After working a 2-2 count, Hughes ran a fastball inside and hit LaManna. After waking Ryan Cole in his second at bat since pinch hitting in the seventh inning, the bases were loaded for Coetzee. The right fielder bunted the pitch back to Hughes who shoveled the ball to Ingles at the plate. Home plate umpire Ryan Clark called Miller safe at the plate, but after review reversed the call.
Caden Grice fielded a ground ball and made the unassisted play at first base to end the Notre Dame half of the ninth, miraculously sending the Irish back to the field without a run.
Grice came up to bat first for the Tigers in the bottom of the ninth and dropped a base hit just behind Miller at second base. Bryce Teodosio came on to run for the 6’ 6” Grice. Teodosio stole second on a missed hit and run by Reid and advanced again to third when Alex Urban almost walked the game off with a two run home run. Instead, Coetzee caught the ball right at the wall for the second out of the inning.
Max Wagner was already at the plate and took his stance as redshirt freshman J.D. Brock made his way to the box to take the at bat. Brock worked the count full and even walked to flip the Tigers’ lineup card over and bring Ingle to plate, still seeking his first hit of the season.
The Irish gave up their designated hitter by sending Brannigan to the mound and putting Brock Murtha in at third base. Ingle popped out to the shortstop to end the game.
Simon claimed the win for his four innings of work and Brannigan, the Irish’s starting third baseman, recorded the save for his one out of work.
The Fighting Irish claimed both of the most recent series against the Tigers, doing so 2-1 in both 2019 and 2021. The road team has claimed the last three series in the matchup, dating back to Clemson’s series win in South Bend in 2018.
The Tigers are back in action Tuesday, March 9, against USC Upstate at Doug Kingsmore Stadium before heading to play the only ACC opponent not on their 2020 schedule, the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Tigers and Tar Heels kick off the series in Chapel Hill Friday, March 12 at 6 p.m.