Clemson’s Erik Bakich, Jack Leggett ignored warnings before ejections, lead ump says

The lead umpire from Sunday’s Clemson-Florida super regional baseball game has released a detailed explanation for why his crew ejected Tigers head coach Erik Bakich and special assistant Jack Leggett during a viral extra innings moment.

In a nearly 350-word statement released overnight Sunday, the game’s crew chief, Billy Van Raaphorst, said that after his crew gathered to discuss a “possible unsportsmanlike conduct violation” for a bat spike on Clemson’s go-ahead home run in the top of the 13th inning, both Bakich and Leggett were ejected and ultimately suspended two games each for failing to obey the sport’s “prolonged warning” rule.

After Clemson’s Alden Mathes hit a solo home run to put his team up 10-9 in the top of the 13th inning at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, he received a warning for his celebratory bat spike while Bakich and Leggett were both ejected. Florida then had a two-run RBI double in the bottom of the 13th to win the game 11-10, sweep Clemson 2-0 in the super regional and advance to the College World Series.

Here are more details from Van Raaphorst’s statement, which added more details to an initial pool reporter statement from the NCAA baseball rules editor late Sunday:

  • After Mathes’ home run, “the crew got together due to the nature of the bat being spiked and to discuss a possible unsportsmanlike conduct violation,” Van Raaphorst said. The crew had already issued unsportsmanlike conduct warnings to both dugouts in the second inning after a scuffle along the first base line that led to a Clemson player, Jack Crighton, being ejected.

  • From there, Bakich “came running out of the dugout when the crew got together. We told him to go back to the dugout while we huddled. We had to tell him three times to return to the dugout.”

  • Meanwhile, Van Raaphorst wrote, Leggett “was in the dugout pointing and screaming at us about the crew huddling. Leggett was warned to stop, he continued waving his hands while yelling at the crew.” At that point, “Leggett was ejected for failing to obey the warning.”

  • After being ejected, Leggett “proceeded onto the field in foul territory and was warned to leave or be suspended. Leggett continued to yell at the crew while walking toward the foul line while failing to obey the ‘Prolonged warning.’ Leggett was then issued a two-game suspension.”

  • After Leggett’s ejection, Bakich, who had not returned to Clemson’s dugout, “stayed outside the dugout in foul territory and started raising his arms over his head while facing the crowd to clearly incite the crowd.” Due to the previous unsportsmanlike conduct warning issued to Bakich earlier, the crew “deemed this inappropriate, and he would be ejected for his actions.”

  • After ejecting and suspending Leggett, then deciding to eject Bakich, Van Raaphorst said that his crew “ultimately decided that (Mathes’) actions were not an ejectable offense.” Van Raaphorst met Bakich at the foul line and told him Leggett had been ejected and suspended “for coming out of the dugout, onto the field and failing to obey the prolonged warning.”

  • Van Raaphorst then told Bakich that he, too, was going to be ejected “for not returning to the dugout and for inciting the crowd.”

  • After being informed of his ejection, Bakich “followed the Crew Chief several times around the infield and after being warned for prolonged activity was suspended for failing to obey the warning.”

  • From there, “The game continued and ended without further incident.”

Van Raaphorst’s overnight statement followed an initial statement by NCAA baseball secretary rules/editor Randy Bruns, who said Sunday that he had “not received any specific details” about what Bakich and Leggett said and did in order to be ejected but outlined the rules related to their ejections:

“A head coach who is ejected but then immediately stops arguing and leaves the field is not suspended per Rule 2-26,” Bruns said. “However, per Rule 5-15-a-4, any team personnel who has been ejected and continues to argue or continues to excessively express themselves with prolonged actions or offensive language is suspended for 2 additional games.”

“Team personnel other than the head coach (such as an assistant coach or player) who are ejected also serve a one-game suspension per Rule 2-26-f.”

That initial statement came roughly three hours after the game ended at 7:39 p.m.

A Clemson spokesman said Bakich wasn’t allowed to participate in a postgame news conference because NCAA rules prevent coaches who’ve been ejected from doing so. No Clemson coaches spoke with media postgame — only players.

Bakich, 46, is expected to conduct a season wrap-up news conference in the near future. He just concluded his second season as the Tigers’ coach after getting hired in 2022 to replace Monte Lee and has led the Tigers to consecutive NCAA Tournaments.

Leggett, 70, has worked on Bakich’s staff the past two seasons as an off-field program development coach. Leggett previously served as Clemson’s head coach for 22 seasons from 1994-2015 and led the Tigers to six CWS appearances before getting fired in a controversial decision he’s said he will never truly get over.

Bakich, though, is a close friend of Leggett’s and worked on his 2002 Clemson staff as a volunteer assistant and made a concerted effort to bring the former coach back into the program. Leggett said he had a minimal relationship with Clemson baseball during the tenure of Lee, the previous coach.

Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan, who also worked for Leggett as a member of that 2002 Clemson staff, said postgame it was tough to see his former boss ejected.

“I didn’t know what happened,” O’Sullivan said. “But obviously, it’s unfortunate. I mean, he’s a legend, a Hall of Famer. You hate to see that happen.”