|by David Hood|
The Tigers (14-9, 6-3 ACC) had taken a 3-1 lead into the inning, but the Seminoles rallied for three runs off of three Clemson pitchers to earn the win. Earlier in the day, the Seminoles (19-4, 7-2) defeated Clemson 11-1 in the first game of the doubleheader.
The teams entered the weekend with identical 5-1 records in the ACC, but Florida St. edges a game ahead with the series win.
The loss also spoiled the effort of starter Jake Long, who pitched six strong innings and left with a 3-1 lead.
"Jake Long pitched really well for us. He got himself into a couple of tough situations and got out of them," Clemson head coach Jack Leggett said. "One of them was in third inning when they loaded the bases, got ourselves out and then scored three runs. Then he had another opportunity to get out of it when they had the bases loaded and got one run. We just lost control of the game in the seventh inning, which is unfortunate because our starting pitching was pretty good today."
Unlike the first game of the doubleheader but very much like the game one victory, the Tigers got on the board early, scoring three runs against Florida St. starter Mike Compton. Steven Duggar walked to start the second inning and stole second, took third on a liner to center but was stuck at third two outs later. Shane Kennedy then drew a four pitch walk, and stole second, setting the stage for Jay Baum to line a double inside the left field foul line, scoring both runners. Weston Wilson followed that with a single up the middle, plating Baum for a 3-0 Clemson lead.
Compton settled down and held the Tigers at bay through the next three innings, but Long was solid in his out, only running into trouble in the top of the sixth. The Seminoles loaded the bases with no outs, but Long allowed only a run-scoring sacrifice fly before getting two pop ups to end the inning with Clemson still ahead 3-1.
Long was pulled after that inning, but went six strong innings, giving up just three hits, one run, walking five and striking out five.
"He’s just a competitor. He battled. He threw some big pitches when he had to," Leggett said of Long. "It’s a sign of a kid that’s out there battling for you. That was the key to him tonight. He got behind in the count and had to throw a lot of pitches, so we kind of got into a jam with him and had to get him out of there."
Zack Erwin came out to pitch the seventh, but was pulled after facing just three batters. Erwin gave up a long solo homer to Justin Gonzalez - it cleared the wall by plenty in left – and then gave up a double that put the tying run in scoring position. He was replaced by Clate Schmidt, but Schmidt gave up a game-tying single and was replaced by Matt Campbell.
Campbell got the second out of the inning on a strikeout, but gave up a ringing double to John Sansone that scored the go-ahead run and made it 4-3 Florida St., the Noles’ first lead of the game.
Jameis Winston got the final seven outs for his fourth save of the season. Winston, who mimed throwing a touchdown pass after being booed by Clemson fans earlier in the game, said he enjoys the rivalry with Clemson.
"It means a lot to have a competitive rivalry," the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner said. "Here, at Florida or at Miami. It just makes me feel good inside that I have that much respect. We had the momentum coming into it because our offense produced. We had that momentum and I had to shut the door."
Long, who was almost in tears after the game, said he didn't put the blame on the bullpen for the loss.
"It’s a team effort. You can’t blame it all on them [the bullpen]. They are working just as hard as we are," Long said. "We just need to keep practicing and working as a team and everything is going to click. It is tough and annoying at times [not being able to get over the hump against elite teams], but we just have to keep battling. That’s all we can do. I think the lineup worked pretty well at times. I don’t even know. I’m just so lost right now. We’ll come back. It’s a new day."
Clemson returns to action Tuesday night at Georgia.
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David Hood can be reached at email@example.com