The Clemson baseball team faced its first big challenge of the season last weekend when it took on two-time defending national champion South Carolina in a three-game series. These games have been called the “Best Rivalry in College Baseball,” and the series definitely lived up to the hype as the Gamecocks won two of the three games.
Game 1 was played at a neutral site in Charleston, S.C., and turned out to be an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel. Kevin Brady started for the Tigers and pitched six solid innings, allowing just one run while striking out seven. However, Michael Roth was just as stellar for the Gamecocks, going 7.1 innings and allowing only one run.
The score stayed tied at one until the 11th inning when South Carolina scored two runs on singles by Sean Sullivan and Connor Bright. The Tigers tried to mount a comeback in the bottom half of the inning. Richie Shaffer led off with a double and came around to score two batters later when Jason Stolz reached on an error.
The Tigers kept battling and were able to get runners on the corners with two outs. Jay Baum then hit a sinking liner to left-center field, but Evan Marzilli came up with a spectacular diving catch to preserve the 3-2 victory for the Gamecocks.
The second game wasn’t quite as dramatic. Clemson scored first in the second inning when Stolz singled home Phil Pohl and Brad Felder. However, South Carolina came right back in the bottom half of the inning, scoring three runs on RBIs by L.B. Dantzler, Dante Rosenberg and Tanner English.
The Gamecocks broke it open in the third inning with a three-run homer by Adam Matthews that pushed the score to 6-2.
The Tigers responded with a run in the fifth inning, but South Carolina answered back with a run of its own in the bottom half of the fifth. The Gamecocks tacked on two more runs in the eighth inning, giving themselves a comfortable margin going into the ninth.
However, Clemson would not go quietly. Shaffer connected for a two-run homer, but the Tigers’ offense fizzled after that and South Carolina earned a 9-6 win.
Game 3 was held in Doug Kingsmore Stadium, and it was a game for the ages. The Gamecocks scored four runs in the second inning on two costly Clemson errors. The Tigers chipped away at the lead in the next two innings, scoring a run in the second on Thomas Brittle’s sacrifice fly and two runs in the third on another Shaffer home run and a Joe Costigan single.
South Carolina stretched its lead back to two runs in the sixth when Grayson Greiner hit his second home run of the day. Clemson entered the eighth inning down two runs, but that deficit was quickly erased. Shaffer led off the inning with a walk and Pohl followed with a two-run blast to left-center to tie the score at five.
In the ninth inning, Jon McGibbon led off with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Brittle. The next batter, Steve Wilkerson, laced a single just over the shortstop’s outstretched glove that brought home McGibbon and pushed the Tigers to a 6-5 comeback win.
The Tigers now sit at 5-4 on the season and begin ACC play when they host a three-game series with North Carolina.