CLEMSON, S.C. – Freshman Owen Griffith pitched 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief and classmate Logan Davidson launched a two-run home run in the seventh inning and a sacrifice fly in the eighth as the 15th-ranked Tigers rallied past UNCG 6-3 at the NCAA Clemson Regional at Doug Kingsmore Stadium on Sunday.
The Tigers (41-20) move on to face Vanderbilt and need to beat the Commodores twice to advance to a Super Regional next weekend. Southern Conference champion UNCG, making its first NCAA appearance since 1997, sees its season end at 36-24.
With the Spartans leading 3-2 heading to the seventh, Davidson hit a towering shot off the roof of the building in right center with one out to put Clemson on top for the first time on the day. The blow knocked UNCG starter Dan Loats, who was working on a quality start to that point, from the contest.
The Tigers greeted reliever Bryce Hensley with two singles and a walk to load the bases, still with one out. Hensley struck out Andrew Cox swinging for the second out, but his strikeout pitch skipped in front of catcher Ryan Clinch, allowing Reed Rohlman to race home from third to make it a 5-3 contest.
Davidson added a sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth to give the Tigers some insurance.
UNCG was in control early, scoring three times in the bottom of the third to jump out to the lead. Ben Spitznagel got the scoring started when he slapped a double down the right-field line to score Ryne Sigmon, who reached when right fielder Seth Beer dropped his fly ball in right. After Tripp Shelton was hit by a pitch, Andrew Moritz singled to right to score Spitznagel. Moritz would then come home on Michael Goss' squeeze bunt to make it a three-run spread.
Beer atoned for his fielding miscue almost immediately, hitting an 0-1 pitch out to center field for his 16th homer of the season to lead off the fourth and make it 3-1. The Tigers got another run back in the fifth on Rohlman's sacrifice fly before Davidson took over in the late innings.
Griffith (1-2) did the rest, keeping the potent UNCG offense – which entered the game fifth nationally with a .323 team batting average – at bay. The rookie right-hander surrendered just one hit and one walk, striking out five.
The Spartans stranded seven base-runners in the contest, including four against Griffith, who took over with a runner on second in the bottom of the fifth. Griffith struck out Goss swinging to escape the inning after Moritz's double finished off starter Pat Krall. Griffith got another strikeout to end the sixth with a runner on first and got a fly out to center to end the eighth with two runners in scoring position after an error, a wild pitch on a strikeout and a balk put UNCG in business.
UNCG's Sigmon led off the bottom of the ninth with a long fly to left but Rohlman was able to chase it down and make the catch against the wall. Griffith got a fly to center and a groundout to first to nail down his first career win.
Loats fell to 8-3 on the season with the loss, as he was charged with four runs (three earned) on seven hits and a walk in 6 1/3 innings. Clemson's Krall did not earn a decision and was charged with three runs (one earned) on five hits and a walk in 4 2/3 innings.
Spitznagel and Moritz finished with two hits each to lead the Spartans at the plate. Kyle Wilkie and Beer were each 3-for-3 for the Tigers, who escaped UNCG 5-4 in Friday's matchup between the squads.
The game was delayed twice for a total of 4 hours and 50 minutes by inclement weather in the area before finally getting under way at 5:50 p.m.