Clemson committed two errors, the first of which led to the eventual winning run, while at the same time going for 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and the No. 7-seed Cavaliers took the 5-4 victory Saturday in the ACC Tournament at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville to eliminate the No. 2 seeded Tigers and advance to the championship game, where they'll play No. 1-seed Georgia Tech on Sunday.
It's the third straight win by Virginia (41-17) over the Tigers (39-21) and the second in four days.
"I felt like they were one of the hottest teams in the country and probably the hottest team in our league," Virginia coach Brian O'Connor said. "And for our team to come down here and get two victories against them and have an opportunity to play for the title tomorrow is something that I know all of our players and our coaching staff and everybody involved with our program is very proud of."
One reason the Cavaliers is playing for the title is because they put nine runners in scoring position and five of them scored. They were 3-for-9 and had a sacrifice fly with runners on second or third base.
Conversely, Clemson put five runners in scoring position and plated only one.
"I believe in championship baseball – yeah, pitching and defense is important, but championship baseball is won with two-out clutch hitting," O'Connor said. "That's what it comes down to. When you have runners in scoring position with two outs and being able to get that big knock to drive in a couple of runs or that single run is what I believe can win championships. And our guys are doing that right now."
The pitching staff of Virginia definitely had something to do with the Tigers' inability to drive in runs, particularly Sean Doolittle.
In the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, Clemson sent six hitters to plate and five of them struck out, with three of them looking.
"(Doolittle) was very aggressive and we got a little tentative there at times," Tigers coach Jack Leggett said. "He's very aggressive, so you've got to be very aggressive against him. We got a little too picky at different times and he made some good pitches with men on base."
On the other side, Clemson starting pitcher Kris Harvey (5-4) struggled from the outset. He labored through the first inning, hit a batter and gave up two hits and a run in the second inning before it all fell apart in the third.
With the bases loaded and one out in the third, Scott Headd hit a two-run single to right, before Tom Hagan followed with a run-scoring single to center to make it 4-0 and end Harvey's day on the mound in just 2.1 innings.
"I thought my stuff was good today, but unfortunately I worked up in the zone just a little bit too much," Harvey said. "That's the way it goes sometimes."
Leggett said there really was never any real thought of starting Kopp to begin with.
"Harvey's a good pitcher for us, too," Leggett said. "He's doing well for us and he's had a great career and deserves a chance to go out there."
From he point of Harvey's exit, however, Clemson controlled the game, with the exception of one huge error.
David Kopp relieved Harvey and was practically unhittable. He allowed just two hits and one unearned run the rest of the way. His pitching performance enabled the Tigers to claw their way back into the game.
The comeback started in the top of the fourth when Harvey hit a seeing-eye single up the middle with two outs to score one run and make it 4-1. Travis Storrer then followed with a blast over the fence in right field to make it 4-3.
It stayed that way until the sixth, when with one out, Mike Campagna singled to center and made a wide turn at first, which caused shortstop Stan Widmann to take the relay throw and turn and fire it to first in hopes of picking off Campagna.
But the throw sailed over the head of first baseman Andy D'Alessio and into the dugout, which put Campagna on third. Two batters later, Tim Henry hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Campagna and make it 5-3.
"I'd like to have him take a bite out of it and eat it and make no play," Leggett said of Widmann. "He's been a great player for us all year long and made some great plays. I've always said that it doesn't come down to one play, it doesn't come down to one pitch and it doesn't come down to one at-bat. That was a critical run and we'd like to have it back. But that's the way it goes. He'll learn from it and we'll move on. He tried to make something that wasn't there and it's unfortunate it didn't pay off."
Harvey hit a solo home run to leadoff the eighth to make it 5-4, but Clemson never threatened to score again.
The Tigers now set their sights on hosting the NCAA Regional. The announcement of the regional sites will be announced Sunday and the rest of the field will be announced Monday.
Tigers Eliminated From ACC Tournament
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