Clemson pitcher Mat Clark just missed out on history Thursday afternoon against Louisville, but the redshirt sophomore still delivered a gem as No. 8 seed Clemson topped No. 1 seed Louisville 7-1 in the ACC tournament.
Clark carried a perfect game into the eighth inning and a no-hitter into the ninth before giving up a walk in the eighth and a solo home run to pinch-hitter Zach Britton to open the ninth.
Still, the Hilton Head Island native allowed only one run in eight plus innings of work as the Tigers earned a win that coach Monte Lee believes locks them into the NCAA Tournament.
“Well, I certainly think that we’re in now,” Lee said, before listing off Clemson’s accomplishments. “We’re sitting at 36 in the RPI... We’re 3-1 this year against the ACC champion. We’re 9-7 versus the top 25 this year. And we are 8-7 versus top-20 RPI teams... I think this win certainly solidifies us in the field of 64, and it’s a brand new season for us moving forward.”
Clark said that he struggled with his command in the bullpen prior to his start, but it was clear from the first batter on that he had his best stuff against the Cardinals.
He threw only 92 pitches over the eight plus innings of work, and he did not face a three-ball count until he walked Alex Binelas on four pitches with one out in the eighth inning to end his shot at a perfect game.
“Something just clicked on the mound and I was able to locate all my pitches,” Clark said. “Past couple weeks, I haven’t had that kind of command. My walk numbers were up a little bit the past couple weeks. But it felt good today locating all my pitches.”
Clark received plenty of help from Clemson’s offense as the Tigers pounded out 12 hits. Clemson scored five runs off ACC Pitcher of the Year Reid Detmers in four innings, with Kyle Wilkie delivering a two-run double off the wall in left in the third and Justin Hawkins blasting a three-run homer in the fourth.
Jordan Greene added an RBI single for the Tigers in the sixth inning, and Wilkie hit a solo home run in the seventh.
Green, Michael Greene, Wilkie and Sam Hall each had two hits for Clemson.
“Offensively we were outstanding today against the best starting pitcher in our league in Detmers,” Lee said. “I thought it was the most complete game that we’ve played of the year in the biggest moment that we needed our best game of the year.”
Even with the win, Clemson’s time at the ACC tournament is done as Boston College had already clinched Pool A with wins over Clemson and Louisville earlier this week to advance to Saturday’s semifinals.
The Tigers will return home and wait to learn their NCAA Tournament fate. The selection show takes place Monday at noon on ESPNU.