|by David Hood|
The baseball team is allowed to break out the white hats with the purple brims for Sunday games provided they have won the first two games of the series, something the Tigers had accomplished with a doubleheader sweep Saturday over Wright St.
Sunday, the Tigers completed the three-game sweep over the Raiders with a 7-0 victory on a sun-splashed afternoon at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, getting eight strong innings from starter Scott Firth and getting two RBI each from Shane Kennedy and Jay Baum.
Baum said the Tigers don’t get to wear the sweep hats that often, and wanted to make sure Sunday’s chance wasn’t wasted.
“That is a pretty big deal, because we can only wear them when we are trying to sweep somebody,” Baum said after the game. “That is the goal every weekend, and it’s great to have them on. But to come out of here with the victory is the best part.”
Firth continued his strong work at the end of the weekend rotation, pitcing eight scoreless innings of five-hit ball, keeping the Raiders under wraps and allowing the Clemson bats to come alive late as they broke the game open with five two-out runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. With the win, Clemson improved to 5-1 on the season and 6-0 all-time against Wright St., while the Raiders fell to 3-3.
The Clemson pitching staff also shut out the Raiders in the second game of the series, giving the Tigers back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 2009, when it did so against Presbyterian College and USC Upstate on March 17,18. It also marked the first time since 2002 (against Maine on March 21,22) that Clemson won back-to-back games by shutout against the same team.
“I am really pleased with how we played this weekend,” Clemson head coach Jack Leggett said. “We pitched great all weekend long, and Scottie Firth was outstanding today. We played really good defense all weekend long, and if we bring that to the ballpark every game we will have a chance. We finally scratched out some hits and I thought we played well all weekend.”
Firth – who improved to 2-0 with the win – went a career-high eight innings. He allowed five hits (all singles) with two walks and four strikeouts. Side-armer Kyle Schnell pitched a perfect ninth inning to close out the game.
“The name of the game for me today was being efficient,” said Firth, who improved to 8-1 as a starter. “I was pounding the strike zone early, and getting some ground balls and fly balls. I wanted the ninth inning, but I was getting up there in pitches and I was happy to see Kyle come in and finish it off. I love seeing that side-armer.”
The Tigers got on the board in the bottom of the first after Thomas Brittle led off with a walk and stole second. He later scored on a two-out wild pitch for a 1-0 lead.
The Tigers were held off the board until the sixth, when Steven Duggar led off with a double to right field - Clemson's first hit of the game – and then Steve Wilkerson reached on an infield single. Two batters later with one out, Jon McGibbon belted a 1-2 pitch off the wall in right field for a double to score Duggar.
In the seventh inning, the Tigers broke the game open with five runs. Garrett Boulware grounded a one-out single through the right side and went to third on Brittle's single through the right side. Brittle was retired at third when Duggar reached on a fielder's choice, then Wilkerson walked with two outs to load the bases. Shane Kennedy came through with a single to right field to score Boulware and Duggar. After McGibbon walked to reload the bases, Jay Baum laced a double over the third-base bag to score Wilkerson and Kennedy, while McGibbon also scored when catcher Garrett Gray dropped the relay throw at the plate.
Clemson will host Winthrop at Doug Kingsmore Stadium on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
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David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org