|by David Hood|
Schmidt later said he “went all barbarian” during the scream, but it was the type of effort needed and wanted by the Tigers over the 7th-ranked Gamecocks in a 5-3 victory on a cold, wind-swept Saturday afternoon at Greenville’s Fluor Field, evening the series between the rivals at one game apiece.
Schmidt went seven strong innings, allowing just two runs on five hits, striking out five and walking three in a 96-pitch performance that was sorely needed by the Tigers.
“We have some very exciting freshmen,” Clemson head coach Jack Leggett said after the game. “Clay was outstanding today. He has come a long ways, and Pep [pitching coach Dan Pepicelli] has done a great job with him since the fall. He used his breaking ball for strikeouts today, and he was throwing the ball down in the zone.”
The Tigers also pounded out 11 hits and six runs just a day after getting just three hits and no runs in a 6-0 loss to South Carolina on Friday night. Thomas Brittle, Jay Baum, Tyler Krieger and Steven Duggar each had two hits for the Tigers, with Duggar also driving in two runs.
“We did some good things,” Leggett said. “We had a good approach today, and put some balls in play on the ground, got some men on base and had two-out hits. I thought we battled today. We pitched extremely well and had some big hits.”
The Tigers finally broke through against South Carolina pitching in the top of the second inning, plating their first runs of the series. Freshman Steven Duggar dropped a single into right field to start the inning, and he advanced to second on a wild pitch.
Up stepped catcher Garrett Boulware, and promptly drilled a Colby Holmes fastball into the gap in left-center for an RBI double and a 1-0 Clemson lead. A Jon McGibbon grounder advanced Boulware to third. Tyler Krieger dropped a soft single up the third base line, and Tyler Krieger then smoked a single to right to score Boulware for a 2-0 lead. Baum was thrown out trying to advance to third on the play, and the Tigers were unable to add to the lead.
Clemson added to the lead and chased Holmes with a long fifth inning. Krieger and Brittle each laced one-out singles to right to put runners at the corners, and one out later Wilkerson poked a single through the hole between short and third that made it 3-0 Tigers. Kennedy drew a walk that ended Holmes’ day, and Duggar greeted reliever Adam Westmoreland with a single to center that scored two more for a 5-0 Clemson lead.
Holmes lasted just 4 2/3 innings, giving up five earned runs, throwing 91 pitches. He walked one and struck out three.
Schmidt retired his 11th consecutive batter after inducing a flyout to begin the bottom of the sixth, but the Gamecocks finally solved the freshman with back-to-back homers that made it 5-2 after six innings.
Following the second home run, Pepicelli made a visit to the mound and quickly learned that the freshman was well-equipped to finish out the inning.
“I went out there just to see where he was, and he was in a good place,” Pepicelli said. “I wanted to see where his eye contact was at, and he looked me right in the eye. I went back to the dugout and told Jack that Clate was in a good place.
Schmidt danced into and out of trouble in the seventh, a walk, a single and a fielder’s choice putting two runners in scoring position with two outs. However, Schmidt struck out Chase Vergason to end the inning and his day, with Schmidt screaming and pointing at the sky as he bounced off the mound.
Matt Campbell came on to pitch the bottom of the eighth, and back-to-back two-out doubles by Joey Pankake and Grayson Greiner plated a run to make it 5-3, but Campbell escaped further damage and pitched a drama-free ninth to pick up the save.
The win was also a first for the Tigers and Leggett - Clemson had been 0-7 under Leggett against South Carolina in neutral site games.
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David Hood can be reached at email@example.com