|by David Hood|
No. 11 Clemson committed four errors and blew a 6-1 lead in losing to No. 3 South Carolina 9-6 Friday night at Carolina Stadium, the Gamecocks’ 21st win in the last 29 meetings between the two schools.
The Tigers got a three-run double out of shortstop Tyler Krieger and bounced out to the 6-1 lead through the first four innings, but a fifth inning meltdown and defensive lapses led to South Carolina’s comeback, a familiar refrain over the past few seasons.
"We were playing good. I thought our offensive approach was good against Montgomery," Clemson head coach Jack Leggett said after the game. "We got some big hits, and we had that one big inning and we were in great shape, and then the momentum changed when we had two on with nobody out and struck out the side. The momentum changed for them, and they pecked away at our middle relief."
The Gamecocks got on the scoreboard early, getting a first inning run off of Gossett, Max Schrock hit a soft bouncer out in front of home plate that was misplayed by Garrett Boulware, took second on a two-out wild pitch and scored on a single by Kyle Martin to centerfield for a 1-0 lead.
The Tigers were able to knot the game in the second inning, with Weston Wilson lining a single to left field that score Steven Duggar, who started the inning with a single to right. The run ended South Carolina’s 52-inning scoreless streak and was the first run given up this season by starter Jordan Montgomery.
Steve Wilkerson led off the fourth inning with a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jay Baum. Jon McGibbon followed that up with a walk of his own – his second of the night – before Slaton loaded the bases with a controversial infield single. Tyler Krieger then cleared the bases when he hit a rocket that bounced off the fence that guards the visitor’s bullpen in left center, giving Clemson a 4-1 lead. Boulware then plated Krieger with a double of his own to make it 5-1.
Duggar led off the fifth inning with a walk and Wilkerson followed that up with a bunt single to put runners on first and second with no outs for Jay Baum. Baum bunted towards third and an errant throw from Montgomery to Joey Pankake at third allowed Duggar to score and extend Clemson’s lead to 6-1.
However, the Tigers had runners at second and third with no outs, but Montgomery struck out the next three Clemson batters and the momentum - which had once worn orange - put on a white and garnet jersey.
"They made some good pitches when they had to have them," Leggett said. "We had some opportunities. We lost a little momentum in the middle of the ballgame. We were feeling good about ourselves when we were ahead 6-1, but the whole momentum of the game changed right there."
The Gamecocks responded in grand fashion, getting a grand slam from Grayson Greiner off of a tiring Gossett in the bottom of the fifth that made it 6-5. A two-out double and an error by Baum put a runner at third with two outs, and Clay Bates replaced Gossett. Bates escaped further damage, getting Tanner English to foul out to first to end the inning.
The Tigers committed two critical errors in the inning.
Gossett went 4 2/3 innings, giving up five runs, three earned, striking out eight and walking three in 106 pitches.
"We got behind Greiner and had to throw him a fastball and he did what he was supposed to do with it," Leggett said. "I am not sure what happened there. We made some mistakes and they took advantage of them."
The Gamecocks took a 7-6 lead with two runs on three hits and another Clemson error in the sixth, and added another run on a solo homer by English in the seventh for an 8-6 lead. Carolina added an insurance run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth.
Game two of the three-game series is set for a 2 p.m. start Saturday at Greenville’s Fluor Field. Clemson will be the home team, and will send lefty Matthew Crownover to the mound against lefty Jack Wynkoop.
* Saturday's game will be televised live by WMYA (My 40) and available on ESPN3. Fan Fest, which opens at 10:00 AM, will be on Main Street outside of Fluor Field. Clemson’s bus will arrive at the corner of Main Street and Markley Street at Fluor Field at 11:00 AM. Like football gamedays, there will be a Tiger Walk into the stadium.
If you can't see the PDF below, click here to open it.
David Hood can be reached at email@example.com