At one point on Saturday, Tennessee baseball was down two runs, with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning. About two hours later, they were celebrating the craziest victory of the 2023 NCAA baseball tournament.
The Volunteers beat Clemson, their region’s top team and the tournament’s No. 4 seed, in a 14-set epic that saw them play multiple times after the loss.
Clemson entered the ninth inning 4-2 on the back of a four-run fifth inning scored by a Cam Cannarella home run. Starting pitcher Caden Grice got two groundouts and was close to winning a full game, but got into trouble after back-to-back walks put runners in the corners.
Clemson coach Erik Bakich moved Grice to first base and called Ryan Ammons to face third baseman Zane Denton. Ammons took a 2-2 lead and then, well, see for yourself:
Denton’s three-run homer gave the Volunteers a 5-4 lead, but there was still game to play after receiver Cal Stark struck out to end the inning.
Clemson responded with its own rally in the ninth inning, with a double, a passed ball and another double tying the game and putting Cannarrella at second base as the winner with two outs. Will Taylor struck out to end the inning, but Clemson nearly won again in the 10th inning when he charged with one out against Chase Burns.
Benjamin Blackwell appeared to give the Tigers the win with an RBI groundout, to the point that the Clemson players and crowd began to celebrate. However, the replay turned out to be Tennessee’s friendly, and the result was changed to an end-of-inning double play.
The game finally ended four innings later when Hunter Ensley hit an RBI double to score Maui Ahuna from first base. A scoreless inning later, Tennessee picked up their win.
You know a game is crazy when both teams have celebrated a win at some point, and neither has after a ninth-inning home run.
The victory puts Tennessee in control of the Clemson region. Clemson will head to the losers group to face Charlotte and get a rematch if they win, but they will need to win twice to make up for their loss on Saturday and reach the super regional.