Tigers are toothless in listless loss to Vanderbilt


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Monte Lee's Tigers have to beat St. John's at noon to have a chance (Photo by David Grooms)
Monte Lee's Tigers have to beat St. John's at noon to have a chance (Photo by David Grooms)

CLEMSON – Clemson’s lineup lost its bite Saturday night.

A team that has prided itself on miracle comebacks and hitting in the clutch had neither in a 4-3 loss to Vanderbilt in a winner’s bracket game in the NCAA Clemson Regional at Doug Kingsmore. The offense mustered just six hits.

Vanderbilt stays in the winner’s bracket and will await the winner of tomorrow’s losers bracket game between Clemson and St. John’s, which is scheduled to start at noon. The second game of the day will start at 6 p.m.

Clemson falls to 46-15 with the loss, while Vanderbilt improves to 33-25.

The Tiger scored three runs in the first two innings but failed to move a runner to third after that, leaving seven runners on base and hitting into two double plays. Clemson has lost three games to Vanderbilt over the last two regionals and will have to play a doubleheader (if they win the noon game) for a third straight year.

"First and foremost give Vanderbilt a lot of credit. We jumped on them early and scored two runs in the first two innings but they responded in the second inning with a big inning to tie the game," head coach Monte Lee said. "I felt like our bullpen did an outstanding job. Tonight I felt like Higgy (Jake Higginbotham) didn't have his best stuff and we had to turn to the bullpen in the fourth inning and try and piece it together. I thought those guys did an outstanding job and gave us a chance. The big difference was their bullpen did a great job against us - we had some runners on base and they pitched out of some tough spots, so you have to give them a lot of credit. We couldn't come up with the big hit with a runner on base."

After seeing the success Morehead St.’s lefty had against Clemson’s lineup Friday, Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin elected to start lefty Zach King, who was 1-3 after starting just two games during the regular. King ran into trouble early, giving up a leadoff double to Logan Davidson. Davidson advanced to third on a wild pitch. Seth Beer walked and Chris Williams cranked a line drive single into left to score Davidson for a 1-0 lead.

Kyle Wilkie bounced int a double play, sending Beer to third, but Drew Wharton rifled a single to left that scored Beer to make it 2-0.

Sam Hall walked to lead off the second, stole second and promptly scored when Davidson fisted a single to center for a 3-0 lead.

A walk, a single and an infield grounder scored a run for Vanderbilt in the second, but a two-run homer down the line in left by Ethan Paul tied the score at 3-3. The homer was Paul’s ninth of the season. Clemson starter Jake Higginbotham went on to load the bases but got a fly out to left to end the threat.

Kyle Wilkie lined a single to center to lead off the third, extending his hitting streak to 27 games. That streak is the fourth-longest in Clemson history. Drew Wharton drew a one-out walk, but back-to-back strikeouts by Jordan Greene and Justin Hawkins ended the inning.

Higginbotham pitched a clean third but was taken out after hitting a batter with one out in the fourth. He was replaced by Travis Marr, who got out of the inning without further trouble.

Marr gave up a leadoff double in the fifth and was replaced by lefty Mat Clark. The runner moved to third on a groundout and Connor Kaiser pushed a single through a drawn-in infield for a 4-3 Vanderbilt lead.

After that, the Tigers failed to muster much of an offensive attack. Davidson drew a two-out walk in the ninth, but Beer flew out to center to complete the loss.

The Tigers now have to win three games to advance to a Super Regional.

"It hurts but we will come back tomorrow," Chris Williams said. "If you think we are going to roll over after this, you're crazy. We are going to come back tomorrow and be as good then as we were yesterday."

Davidson said the Tigers will get the job done on Sunday.

"We are not done doing our thing. We are a resilient team and we are going to come out and compete," Davidson said. "We have a long day tomorrow but we are going to come out and get it done."




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