For much of the past decade, nobody has owned the Tigers like Virginia's Cavaliers.
Clemson squandered a chance to end Virginia's stranglehold Friday night, as the Tigers' relief pitching sputtered and eventually failed in an 11-inning, 6-5 loss to the 12th-ranked Cavaliers at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
Mike Papi, whose ninth-inning RBI single capped a three-run Virginia rally and tied the score 5-5, broke the tie on his next at-bat, as he hammered a pitch by Mike Kent - the last of Clemson's six relievers - deep over the Cajun Cafe banner in right field.
Clemson, which led 5-1 and appeared in control until late in the contest, went down uneventfully in the bottom of the 11th.
It was Virginia's ninth straight victory over the Tigers, and boosted the Cavaliers' record to 16-1 overall and 3-1 in the ACC. Clemson slipped to 10-6 and 2-2 in league play.
"It was a tough loss," said Clemson coach Jack Leggett. "Daniel Gossett pitched great and we had ourselves in the position we wanted to be with a three-run lead and just couldn't hold it. We coughed it up and let it slide away from us.
"We just have to put this one behind us and come back and play tomorrow."
Leggett bristled at the suggestion that the Cavaliers, who have now won 20 of the last 24 games in the series, are 'in the Tigers' heads.'
"Nobody's in my head - nobody's in anybody's head," Leggett said. "They just beat us tonight and got the hits that they needed to, and we didn't do the job pitching that we needed."
The Tigers wasted another strong starting pitching performance by Daniel Gossett, who left his teammates with a 5-2 lead after seven innings. He scattered five hits, struck out six and walked none.
Matt Campbell came on in relief of Gossett in the eighth and got through the inning unscathed only via the glove of centerfielder Thomas Brittle, who chased down a deep fly ball and snared the ball off the top of the wall to rob the Cavaliers of a two-run homer.
He wasn't so fortunate in the ninth, as he gave up a leadoff double to Derek Fisher and then a single to Joe McCarthy. Kyle Schnell came in to pitch and struck out Kenny Towns, and then retired Howard on a groundout, as Fisher scored from third, cutting Clemson's lead to 5-3.
Reed Gregnani followed with a double off the rightfield wall, and then pinch hitter Mike Papi singled in McCarthy to tie the score 5-5.
Freshman Zach Erwin got the final out of the inning by striking out Branden Cogswell.
The Tigers stranded a runner at second in the bottom of the ninth, and then wiggled out of another jam in the top of the 10th. Virginia loaded the bases with one out on a single and two walks, but Mike Kent - Clemson's fourth pitcher of the inning - got a strikeout and a deep fly-out to end the threat.
The Tigers got an early jump in the bottom of the second when Garrett Boulware reached on an error, and, with one out, Shane Kennedy powered a pitch by Virginia lefthander Brandon Waddell over the left-field fence to give Clemson a 2-0 lead.
The Cavaliers got a run back in the top of the fourth when Fisher led off with a double to the left-field corner, moved to third on a groundout by Downes, and scored on a sacrifice fly to left by McCarthy.
Clemson answered immediately, as Steve Wilkerson led off with a double to left, moved to third on a single to right by Boulware, and scored when Steven Duggar looped a single to shallow left-center. Boulware advanced to third on the play, and Duggar took second on the third. Kennedy followed with a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Boulware.
The Tigers, up 4-1, missed a chance to add to their lead when Duggar was thrown out at the plate by Virginia's Fisher after a single by Jon McGibbon.
Clemson added to its lead in the fifth when Brittle walked with one out, moved to second when Jay Baum singled off the glove of the Virginia shortstop and scored on Wilkerson's single past diving third baseman Nick Howard.
Virginia scratched back with a run in the seventh, when Tiger leftfielder tripped while tracking a deep fly ball by Towns, who ended up on third and then scored on a single by Howard.
Clemson's six relievers gave up seven of Virginia's 12 hits. The Tigers finished with 10 hits, led by Wilkerson and McGibbon with two each.