Clemson baseball coach Erik Bakich sounds off on viral ejection, super regional loss

Clemson baseball coach Erik Bakich wasn’t allowed to participate in Sunday’s postgame news conference after getting ejected from the Tigers’ season-ending super regional loss to Florida in viral fashion.

Two days later, though, he got his say.

Speaking with host Mickey Plyler on local radio station 105.5 The Roar, Bakich on Tuesday morning made his first public comments on the end of Clemson’s season — and the 13th inning saga that saw lead umpire Billy Van Raaphorst’s crew eject both Bakich and special assistant Jack Leggett for ignoring repeated warnings for arguing a potential ejection of a Tigers player after a go-ahead home run.

As of Tuesday, both of them will also miss Clemson’s first two games of 2025 — a more notable absence than past seasons since the Tigers are opening next season at Globe Life Field, home of the MLB’s Texas Rangers, in a huge early-season event.

Bakich’s overall take?

“Yeah, that was a tough one,” he told Plyler.

After Clemson’s Alden Mathes hit a go-ahead home run in the top of the 13th inning against Florida in an elimination game at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, he spiked his bat in celebration in the direction of Clemson’s bench.

The umpires quickly gathered to discuss whether that warranted an unsportsmanlike conduct violation— something Bakich said he and his staff were sensitive to since another player, Jimmy Obertop, had been ejected in a similar situation in an ACC road series at Louisville earlier this year.

If Mathes had been ejected, he also would’ve missed Clemson’s next game. At that point, the Tigers were down 1-0 in the super regional series and fighting to force a third game with Florida, with the winner advancing to the College World Series.

“So I immediately ran out and said, ‘He threw it at our dugout, he spiked it at our dugout,’” Bakich said on the radio. “Which is, by rule, you’re allowed to do it to your own dugout. You’re not allowed to do it to the other team’s dugout. And so they shooed me off a few times, and I kind of backed up.”

At that point, Bakich said, “the crowd was going nuts” and he couldn’t hear anything coming from Clemson’s dugout because of the noise from home fans, who were already upset about a previous dustup in the third inning that ended with another Clemson player, Jack Crighton, getting ejected for “leaving his position” in the field of play to join a potential altercation between Florida’s pitcher and a Tigers batter.

“And the one of the umpires turned and saw Coach Leggett get animated and and he tossed him,” Bakich said. “And so then, of course, Coach Leggett comes out, and the crowd goes even more nuts. And I kind of gave Coach Leggett a low five, and then turned to the crowd, and waved my arms to the crowd to incite the crowd.”

‘At this point, screw it’

Bakich revved up the home crowd as the umpires continued to meet. Eventually, he said, the crew called him over to the first base line to deliver a ruling.

Mathes, they told him, would receive a warning but wouldn’t be ejected.

“And he says that Jack Leggett is ejected, he can’t be yelling at the umpires from the dugout, and he’s also suspended for coming out onto the field,” Bakich said, recounting his conversation with crew chief Van Raaphorst. “And I said, ‘Are we really going to suspend Jack Leggett?’”

“Yep, we’re going to do that,” Van Raaphorst said, per Bakich’s recounting. “And because you incited the crowd and waved to the crowd when he was out there as well, you’re ejected, too.”

“And then he tossed me and just walked away,” Bakich said.

After that, Clemson’s head coach admitted, “I lost my stuff.”

Bakich continued to approach and argue with the umpires after his initial ejection, leading the crew to hand him an additional two-game suspension for, as Bakich put it, “wanting to get a man-to-man, face-to-face explanation. But I couldn’t get that.”

“So I had already been tossed and didn’t even know for just inciting the crowd when Coach Leggett was standing out there,” Bakich said.

He added that most umpires allow a coach to seek out further explanation after an initial ejection, “and the guy did, but it was too late. I had already kind of made my way onto the field, and then he held the two games (signal for a suspension) up right away. And so it’s like, ‘Well, at this point, screw it.’”

Bakich added that Clemson could “certainly try” to appeal his two-game suspension and Leggett’s two-game suspension but he’s unsure how that process would work with the NCAA and “if it’ll do anything.”

The Tigers usually open their season with a manageable home series (the past two years, they’ve hosted and swept Binghamton and Xavier), but they’re opening next year in the Shriner Children’s College Showdown next February in the Dallas area.

Widely regarded as one of the top early events on the college baseball calendar, the 2025 iteration will feature Arizona, Clemson, Louisville, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, and Texas playing three games apiece the weekend of Feb. 14-16, 2025.

The Tigers will probably be down a head coach (and a former head coach).

“As it stands right now, I’ll have to sit out the first two games of 2025 and so will my wingman, Jack Leggett,” Bakich said with a laugh.