The Clemson baseball team is back in a familiar place after its second game of the NCAA tournament — facing elimination.
For the fourth consecutive year, Clemson opened postseason play with a win. And for the fourth consecutive year the Tigers dropped Game 2 of a regional as Ole Miss pounded Clemson 6-1 Saturday night at Swayze Field.
Clemson will face Jacksonville State at 3 p.m. Sunday needing a win to keep its season alive. If the Tigers beat the Gamecocks, they will need to beat Ole Miss Sunday night and again Monday to advance to a Super Regional.
“Have to give Ole Miss credit for a great ballgame. What an unbelievable atmosphere here tonight,” Clemson coach Monte Lee said. “They played a complete baseball game... We competed and gave ourselves a chance out of the bullpen, but offensively we just could not find the answer against their starter tonight. He was outstanding.”
Lee said heading into the tournament that he felt “very good” about his team’s starting pitching. But a night after Jacob Hennessy struggled in his start against Illinois, Tigers ace Mat Clark got roughed up as well.
Clark, who carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning of his previous outing in the ACC tournament, lasted only 3 1/3 innings against the Rebels. The lefty allowed five hits, four earned runs and walked three batters. He needed 80 pitches to get the 10 outs.
Clemson’s first two starters in the Oxford Regional combined to allow seven earned runs in 5 2/3 innings.
“I have confidence in both of those guys. I have confidence that those guys can get us deep into ballgames because they have,” Lee said. “It’s just unfortunate. This is a tough environment against a really good lineup.”
While Clark struggled, Ole Miss starter Doug Nikhazy was lights out. The freshman held Clemson to one run in eight innings of work. Nikhazy struck out nine and allowed only four hits.
Clemson outfielder Michael Green had two of Clemson’s four hits and extended his hitting streak to 13 games in the process, but Grayson Byrd and Kyle Wilkie were the only other Tigers to record a hit.
“He did a really good job of hitting his spots... I feel like everything he was throwing was tough to hit,” Byrd said. “He was in and out of the zone. He was just on. Tip your cap.”
The Tigers were unable to cash in on a pair of scoring chances in the third and the eighth. Shortstop Logan Davidson flied out to center with runners on the corners to end the third and struck out with two on to end the eighth.
Clemson vs. Jacksonville State game details
Who: Clemson (35-25) vs. Jacksonville State (38-22)
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Oxford, Mississippi (Swayze Field)
Watch: The game is not on TV. Stream it online via WatchESPN
Starting pitchers: RHP Brooks Crawford (Clemson) vs. LHP Dylan Hathcock (Jacksonville State)