Tiger bats heat up to even rivalry series with Gamecocks
|Saturday, March 2, 2019, 4:48 PM- -|
GREENVILLE - A trend of recent history repeating continued in the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry series Saturday.
Friday, South Carolina captured the opener for a fourth-straight season. No. 14 Clemson returned the favor with a fourth-straight win at the neutral site Fluor Field, 11-5, on Saturday. The Tigers look to stay to the script on Sunday in Columbia going for a fifth-straight series win over the Gamecocks at noon in Founders Park.
After getting caught looking six times in 14 strikeouts Friday, Monte Lee’s Tigers (8-2) returned to form Saturday by power hitting and aggressiveness on the basepaths.
Clemson reached the double-digit mark in hits for the second time this week and also the second time this season with 10 hits. They tallied 15 knocks in a 14-3 win over ETSU on Tuesday.
"My biggest message after last night was to keep our spirits up. It's so tough to lose at home," Clemson coach Monte Lee said. "We had a lot of really good at-bats last night...Our pitching staff did a phenomenal job in game one - we just had one tough inning...Saturday's game either wins you the series or gets you right back in the series."
"That's our message when we lose a Friday night. We were like, 'Hey look, we've got Davis Sharpe going (Saturday) We've got a loaded bullpen going Saturday. We've got a good offensive ballclub. We play well in this ballpark. All we've got to do is put together good at-bats and pitch well out of the 'pen behind our starter and play good defense' - and we did. Now we've got to go to a tough place to play."
Gamecocks center fielder T.J. Hopkins hit his second home run in as many days for two RBIs in the first inning - ending an 11 1/3 scoreless-inning streak to start the season for Clemson freshman right-hander Davis Sharpe.
Clemson answered back in the top of the next frame - second baseman Jordan Greene delivering an RBI single and then using some agressive baserunning to make a roundtrip: stealing second base, taking third on a wild pitch and scoring on an errant throw to catch him at third.
The Tigers seized their first lead on a Grayson Byrd knock off the Fluor Field ‘Monster’ in left field with an RBI double. The dynamic utility hitter Sharpe then helped himself with an RBI single to extend the lead and chase Gamecocks starter Dylan Harley after 2 2/3 innings.
Clemson continued to shell South Carolina pitching in the fourth inning with left fielder Sam Hall sending a two-run shot over the ‘Monster’ and catcher Kyle Wilkie tacking on with a two-out RBI single. Hall finished 2-for-3 with three runs scores and the two RBIs.
Center fielder Bryce Teodosio, a Simpsonville native, added to the scoreboard with his team-leading fourth home run of the season to right center field for an 8-4 edge in the fifth.
South Carolina (8-2) mounted a big threat in the next frame, loading the bases with no one out on lefty reliever Sam Weatherly (2-0), but after a minor delay for some mound repair, sophomore hard-throwing righty Holt Jones navigated the Tigers out of the jam with only giving up an RBI groundout.
"I didn't really have any nerves," Jones said of the situation. "I was just trying to stay mostly relaxed, because when I get amped up I don't pitch as well. I tried to stay cool, calm and collected."
Clemson got the run back in the top of the seventh with Sharpe drawing a walk and Greene eventually sending him home on a sacrifice fly. Shortstop Logan Davidson then got in on a power surge with a 2-run shot to left field to go up 11-5 in the eighth.
"That's just one of the things we do here at Clemson, is hit long balls," Teodosio said. "You've seen that in the past. It's awesome getting to see your teammates do things like that and being able to bounce back after a night like that is a big one."
Jones finished throwing four scoreless innings for the save, allowing one hit with three strikeouts to one walk.
Clemson snapped an eight-game winning streak for the Gamecocks.