In the first two games of the tournament, losses to No. 16 Virginia and Duke, the 13th-ranked Tigers stranded countless runners in scoring position. It appeared after No. 4 North Carolina tied the game in the top of the ninth inning Saturday to force extras that the same result was imminent.
But with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th, Wilson Boyd gave his coach the hit he had been looking for all week when he hit Patrick Johnson's 3-2 fastball off the wall in left field to score Mike Freeman with the winning run in a 4-3 victory at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C.
"It was a really, really good college baseball game," Leggett said. "Both players picthed really well and there was clutch hitting both ways and some very good defensive plays.
"They are a very good baseball team and today I felt we played the way we needed to play. It was a great competitive game. It was one of those epic, classic baseball games."
More importantly, the win over fourth-ranked UNC was the Tigers' 40th of the season and is the kind of victory that can go a long way in securing a regional site for next week's NCAA Tournament.
Clemson (40-18) will find out whether its unofficial No. 8 RPI ranking and No. 9 strength of schedule prior to Saturday's game is enough to reward it with a regional site. Both rankings should go up Sunday following the win over the Tar Heels, who were No. 1 in WarrenNolan.com's RPI poll.
"It's great to win such a great game like that," Freeman said. "We didn't score many runs in the game, but Wilson's hit at the end is just huge for us and we are just going to build off of this for the postseason."
As for the game itself, Clemson found itself fighting for a win after again failing to capitalize on scoring opportunities in the second, third, eighth and ninth innings.
After falling behind 3-1, North Carolina (42-16) rallied in the top of the fifth when Dustin Ackley homered to left field off Clemson starter Casey Harman. It was one of the few mistakes Harman made as he kept Tar Heel batters off balance most of the afternoon.
The sophomore had a career-high 10 strikeouts to one walk in 7.1 innings of work. He gave up just two earned runs, while scattering seven hits.
"I'm just really proud of the way Casey started the game off," Leggett said. "He went out there and neutralized a strong hitting team."
It appeared the Tigers were going to hold on to that 3-2 lead when relief pitcher Tomas Cruz came on with one out and two on in the top of the eighth inning and preserved the lead by inducing Mark Fleury into a double-play ball at second to end the threat.
But the magic wasn't there for Cruz in the ninth as he gave up a lead-off walk to Tarron Robinson and then a one-out single to Ben Bunting, which scored pinch runner Ryan Norton to tie the game.
It appeared the Tigers were going to be able to go home in the ninth when Freeman led off the inning with a base hit to left field and advanced to second on a bunt sacrifice by Jeff Schaus. But Ben Paulsen popped up to second and then after intentionally walking Kyle Parker, Boyd flied out to right field.
The Tar Heels where in good shape to take the lead in the top of the 10th inning when Fleury got a two-out hit and moved to second following a walk to Brett Thomas. Mike Cavasinni followed with single to left field, but Schaus made a perfect throw to home to gun Fleury out, who was trying to score the go-ahead run.
Finally in the bottom of the 11th, Freeman reached on an infield hit and then moved to third after Johnson threw the baseball into right field while trying to throw Freeman out at first. Johnson then intentionally walked Schaus and Paulsen with one out to load the bases.
He caught Parker looking at a pitch just on the corner to record the second out and worked Boyd to a 3-2 count before the Clemson junior took the final pitch to left field for the game-winner.
"I knew I was going to have to get ahead (in the count)," Boyd said. "I liked the situation. I got a fastball to hit and I didn't try to do too much with it and it worked out for me."
Boyd had two RBIs and two hits in the win, while Freeman was 4-for-6 with an RBI.
Clemson got an RBI double from Brad Miller in the second inning, a Boyd RBI single in the third and a solo home run to right field from Freeman in the fourth to build its early 3-1 lead. The Tigers finished the game with 13 hits.
Clemson will now have to wait until tomorrow to see if it will host a regional next week. The Tigers will find out who they play on Monday.
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