Despite forcing a deciding regional game with two wins late Sunday, top-seeded Clemson didn’t have enough pitching and offense to advance out of its own regional and past second-seeded Vanderbilt on Monday.
Regional MVP Will Toffey hit a pair of home runs for the Commodores, which clubbed the Tigers 8-0 and ended their season after a rain delay that lasted four and a half hours.
Toffey, who went 2-for-5 with five RBIs and three runs scored, hit a two-run home run in the third and a three-run shot in the fifth to help Vandy build a quick six-run lead as Clemson (42-21) gave up 13 hits in its fifth game in four days.
“I’d like to give Vanderbilt a lot of credit,” Clemson coach Monte Lee said. “They have a great ball club and they played an excellent game tonight. They deserved the win. We wish them nothing but the best moving forward.”
The Tigers came up short in a home regional for the second consecutive year and haven’t advanced to a super regional since 2010.
Clemson entered the season with high expectations after winning the ACC tournament title in 2016 and earning a national seed. The Tigers intensified hope of a big season by winning 23 of their first 27 games, but they limped into the postseason with seven losses in their previous nine games and finished 3-2 in the regional.
“We hate to see the season end this way,” Lee said. “We’ve got a great group of young men who sacrificed extremely hard for this program and to try to put ourselves in this position. They achieved a lot of great things. You just hate it for them. You hate it for the players, especially the guys who are leaving the program who are seniors or juniors who have a chance to move on.”
Vanderbilt (36-23-1), the trendy pick to claim the regional title coming in, earns the difficult task of trying to beat Oregon State (52-4), the top national seed, on the road this weekend.
“I know how difficult these (endings) are. We all do,” said Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin, who was an assistant at Clemson under former coach Jack Leggett. “They certainly have a very nice team and it was certainly a difficult proposition to come in here and play a Clemson team that was very powerful and can pitch and of course have the atmosphere that I’ve seen for nine years prior.”
Clemson coach Monte Lee elected to go with right-handed pitcher Alex Eubanks on Monday, despite the redshirt sophomore tossing 101 pitches on Friday. Eubanks (7-6) threw 44 more Monday and gave up two runs (both earned) on four hits through four innings.
Ryley Gilliam and Jeremy Beasley, the next two arms out of the bullpen for Clemson, combined to give up five runs in just an inning of work.
Vandy got a stellar performance from Matt Ruppenthal (3-3), who threw six scoreless innings with just three hits allowed in his fourth start of the season.
“We just couldn’t find a way to mount a comeback, put together good at-bats,” Lee said. “We had an opportunity late in the game (with the bases loaded in the eighth), but we just couldn’t come up with a big hit.”
Clemson’s best chance to put a run on the board came in the third inning when Jordan Greene tried to score from first base on a double to right field by Logan Davidson, who recorded three of Clemson’s four hits in the game. But after the throw pulled catcher Jason Delay toward the third-base side of home plate, Greene ran right past him and thought he scored. However, the umpire didn’t think he touched home plate and didn’t call him safe. Alert Vandy players told the catcher to tag Greene, who was called out.
There is no official replay used in regional play.