Tigers Hold On Against Coastal

MYRTLE BEACH – Following a win Friday evening, Coastal Carolina baseball coach Gary Gilmore said his team's impending game against Clemson was the biggest in the history of his school. For the Tigers, it was merely just another postseason contest.


"Our kids know the importance of this game," he said. "It's the key and most pivotal game of the tournament. This will be David and Goliath matchup here."

And when the money was on the table, it was the team with the most experience that was cool and calm and won in the end as No. 2-seed Clemson took the 11-8 victory over host and No. 1-seed Coastal Carolina Sunday night in the winner's bracket championship of the Myrtle Beach Regional in the NCAA Tournament.

The Tigers (40-21) scored five runs in their final two at-bats to break a 6-6 tie and move within one game of reaching the Super Regional for the third straight year.

"We've definitely been there before," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "The experience helps. Trust me. I think the kids had a good outlook for today. But don't get me wrong, it was a big game for us, too."

First baseman Andy D'Alessio and third baseman Marquez Smith had the big days offensively for the Tigers.

D'Alessio's second double of the day came in the bottom of the seventh and it moved Smith from first to third. But on the play, Chanticleer second baseman Adam Vrable couldn't field the cutoff throw cleanly and Smith was able to score and give Clemson a 7-6 lead, which it would never surrender.

One inning later, Smith hit a two-strike, two-out, three-run homer over the leftfield wall to blow it wide open at 10-6. Clemson added another run in the inning to produce the final score. D'Alessio finished the day 3-for-4 with four RBI and three runs scored. He also hit his 15th home run of the year in the second inning.

The senior D'Alessio entered the game without having an RBI in his last eight games. He had four by the time the first two innings were complete.

"I was more aggressive today," D'Alessio said. "I was kind of passive Friday night. I was taking more pitches than I usually do. I just made a couple of adjustments at the plate." Prior to Smith's homer, his 12th of the season, he had been in the midst of a very difficult day. He had already committed two errors and had been 0-for-2 at the plate.

However, maybe the star of the game was pitcher Ryan Hinson.

All the sophomore lefty did was enter the game with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning and not allow a run, while facing the best two hitters for Coastal Carolina (49-12). The two batters Hinson faced were Chris Raber and Tommy Baldridge, who have a combined .362 batting average with 30 home runs and 114 RBIs.

No problem.

Hinson (5-2) struck out Raber on three pitches and then induced Baldridge to ground out to second base to end the inning and severely damage Coastal's hopes for a win.

"The first guy, I was looking for a strikeout," Hinson said. "That's what I wanted. The next guy, any way to get him out was big and it gave us a boost. …

"You're team is counting on you to make bit pitches. I just came in there with major confidence because I'd been in that situation before."

The moment wasn't lost on Leggett.

"That was huge," he said. "That was probably the biggest part of the ballgame."

The Tigers Monday afternoon will play against the winner of Sunday night's elimination game between Coastal Carolina and St. John's (41-18). D.J. Mitchell (4-0, 3.42 ERA) will get the start for the Tigers.

"I think we're in OK shape," Leggett said. "But it's not one of those things where you want to string it out in two ballgames. You want to get it done in one."

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