|by David Hood|
Mission accomplished, at least through the first game of the season.
Kennedy, hitting cleanup in the first game of his Clemson career, launched a two-out, two-run home run over the left field wall in the bottom of the eighth inning, breaking a scoreless tie and sending Clemson to a 2-0 victory over William & Mary in the season opener at Doug Kingsmore Stadium Friday afternoon.
“Opening Day was awesome. The fact that it was my first Clemson game is even better,” Kennedy said after the game, clutching the game-winning ball in his hands. “I struggled at first. I was just trying to get on base and make contact with the ball, and I got lucky and it went. I know they are expecting some things out of me, but I just tried to settle down and make something happen. Honestly, we needed baserunners. We needed people on and Stevie did a great job of getting on.”
The teams had combined for just eight hits heading into the bottom of the eighth, and it didn’t look like things would change drastically as the Tigers recorded two quick outs. That brought up Steve Wilkerson, who dropped a bunt out in the front of the plate for a base hit, the first hit of the day for the top three hitters in the order.
Up next was Kennedy – hitless on the afternoon – but he changed his fortunes and the fortunes of his teammates when he smoked a fastball from losing pitcher Brett Koehler for Clemson’s first runs of the season.
The Tribe used two hits to puts runners at first and second with no outs in the top of the ninth, and a sacrifice bunt put both runners in scoring position with just one out off of reliever Clay Bates. Leggett turned to Matt Campbell, who induced a strike out and a fly ball to right in earning the save.
Koehler was effective for the Tribe in the loss, giving up just the two runs and six hits in eight innings of work. Clemson starter Daniel Gossett was even more effective, going 6 2/3 innings, giving up just four hits, walking one and striking out four.
Gossett said he was pleased with his effort, but was actually more proud that he and fellow pitcher Kyle Whitman called Kennedy’s game-winning shot.
“Me and Kyle Whitman actually called it,” Gossett said. “We said, ‘We need a home run right now. That would be huge.’ That was a big blow, a game-changer obviously. It’s good to have a little confidence and know I got the first one under my belt. But I can’t take any days off.”
The teams play game two of the series at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
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David Hood can be reached at email@example.com