Clemson downs Coastal Carolina, sits just one win away from Super Regionals (2024)

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  • By Jon Blaujblau@postandcourier.com

    Jon Blau

    Jon Blau has covered Clemson athletics for The Post and Courier since 2021. A native of South Jersey, he grew up on Rocky marathons and hoagies. To get the latest Clemson sports news, straight to your inbox, subscribe to his newsletter, The Tiger Take.

Clemson downs Coastal Carolina, sits just one win away from Super Regionals (3)

CLEMSON— Clemson shortstop Jacob Hinderleider knew it was risky.

The grad transfer from Davidson came into the weekend with a 1-of-2 success rate flipping baseballs out of his glove, behind his back, no look, to a teammate for an out at second base. He even remembers the one time it worked, his sophom*ore year, in a game against N.C. State.

Hinderleider returned to the dugout and his coach said, "Hey, really nice play, but don't ever do that again."

But when Hinderleider scooped a grounder in the sixth inning of Clemson's 4-3 win over Coastal Carolina —with just one out and two runners on base in a tie game— he wasn't going tohold back.

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He came to Clemson to make plays in NCAA tournament games like this — and to play for a coach, Erik Bakich, who refers to Doug Kingsmore Stadium as the "playground" and wants his athletes playing mentally free.

"Go for the no-look glove flip. Screw it," Bakich said postgame. "If we're gonna be champs, and if we're gonna advance, we have to go for plays like that."

Hinderleider went for it, and second baseman Jarren Purify snagged it.

The freshman Purify then noticed a Chanticleer wandering off the first-base bag and charged after him, securing a tag for the most unorthodox of double plays.

"JP had that look in his eye, he was not gonna give the ball up," Bakich said, smiling."He was gonna chase him down."

In one-run games like these, every play matters, good or bad. Clemson has played so many games like these this season — absolute heart-pounders— that the Tigers have gained a comfort in them.

They beat High Point, 4-3, in their regional opener on May 31. They just beat the Chanticleers by the same score on June 1, thanks not only to a clutch defensive play from Hinderleider but also the shortstop's 5-of-5 effort in the batter's box.

And now the No. 6 national seed Tigers are in position, with one more win, to return to Super Regional play for the first time since 2010.

"We just know that we have to compete hard and play loose and have fun," Hinderleider said, "and that's when we're at our best."

Clemson (43-14) is very much in the driver's seat.

Coastal Carolina has to play High Point at noon on June 2 with the winner facing the host Tigers at 6 p.m. The Chanticleers or Panthers— the latter having knocked out Vanderbilt—have to win three games in a row to advance.

Bakich has confidence in what Sunday night will bring, even if he wasn't exactly sure postgame who would start on the mound, because Clemson's offense hasn't truly broken out yet in regional play.

"We haven't had a crooked inning yet. We have only scored single runs," Bakich said. "I have a good feeling our offense is gonna come out swinging tomorrow."

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While the top five hitters in Clemson's order struggled in the opener against High Point, that wasn't the case Saturday. Lead-off hitter Alden Mathes, followed by Hinderleider, were able to get on base in their first two at-bats.

Blake Wright was able to drive in Mathes from third on a sac fly in the first frame, and Cam Cannarella brought in Mathes with another fly in the third.

But the Tigers struggled to string together hits beyond the top two. Hinderleider was 3-of-3 through six innings, but the four hitters behind him in the lineup didn't have a hit at that point.

Clemson left seven runners on base in six frames.

That left a thin margin for freshman pitcher Aidan Knaak, who allowed a solo homer in the third and struggled to field a squeeze bunt in the sixth to tie it up at 2-2. The freshman went six innings, striking out six Coastal batters.

"We pitched well enough to win today," Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore said. "So did they."

Hinderleider picked up his fourth hit, a double, with one out in the seventh. Wright moved him over to third, and Cannarella, who had three runs batted in, shot one past shortstop to bring Hinderleider home.

But the lead was, again, short-lived.

On the first pitch in the bottom of the seventh, Coastal Carolina's Zack Beach rocked reliever Lucas Mahlstedtfor a home run to make it 3-3.

But, again, the Tigers found a way.

In the bottom of the eighth, with two Coastal runners on, and two out, the Tigers turned to freshman Jacob McGovern. The Seneca native notched a strikeout to preserve a tie game going into the ninth.

The crowd, and Clemson's dugout, erupted for their hometown hero.

"He threw the curveball. Everybody got wild," Cannarella said.

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In the top of the ninth, Hinderleider's final hit moved Mathes over to third, setting up another sacrifice fly by Cannarella to score the winning run.

Clemson turned to closer Austin Gordon in the bottom half. He struck out the first two batters he faced. The last Coastal Carolina hit was a drive deep to left field, but it was caught just in front of the wall to seal a win.

It was, truly, a game of inches.

But it's exactly the kind of game the Tigers have become used to winning.

"We as coaches, players, and a team need to finish the job, and, fans, let's do it, too," Bakich said. "Let's put an exclamation mark on this."

Follow Jon Blau on Twitter @Jon_Blau. Plus, receive the latest updates on Clemson athletics, straight to your inbox, by subscribing to The Tiger Take.

Jon Blau

Jon Blau has covered Clemson athletics for The Post and Courier since 2021. A native of South Jersey, he grew up on Rocky marathons and hoagies. To get the latest Clemson sports news, straight to your inbox, subscribe to his newsletter, The Tiger Take.

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Clemson downs Coastal Carolina, sits just one win away from Super Regionals (2024)
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