Ed Note: Fanpost recap
I called for an "at worst" of taking 2 of 3 from Maine, and go figure, that's what happens. We came out flat again and Clemson had to scramble after another series opening loss to win the last two games and the series. Don't get me wrong, two of three is two of three and I'll take it. If this happens in every series this year, Clemson is looking at a weekend record of 32-16; throw in a few midweek victories on top of that and we're looking at a solid year. IF this were a super regional and Clemson won the last two games after losing the first, we're talking about going to Omaha. However, this is Maine. MAINE. They're a solid team that can swing the sticks, but also a team that Clemson should have swept, if the flashes of what our batting lineup COULD be are any indication. After the series with UAB, it appeared as though pitching was going to carry this team. A week and a knocked-around pitching staff later, and this team is inconsistent as can be. It's impossible to tell coming into any given game whether Clemson is going to get a lights out performance from a starting pitcher, or if he's going to get shelled. Is Clemson going to wait until the 7th inning to score and then only put up 1 run, or are they going to put up 2 runs, 2 runs, and then a 5 spot in consecutive innings? Nobody knows at this point, and consistency is going to be a necessity, especially with a series against the second-ranked coots coming up this weekend. Clemson is going to need some aspect of the game to lean on in order to succeed not only in this coming series, but the rest of the season.
Details of the games after the jump.
Friday: Maine-6 , Clemson-5
Coming out flat and executing poorly bites Clemson again. Kevin Brady gave another admirable effort on the mound (5.0 IP, 4 hits, 2 runs, 5 strikeouts), with the only he runs he gave up coming on one swing. He threw a lot of pitches though (also did so in his first start), which would explain why he was pulled after five again. We HAVE to start scoring runs behind him. For a guy who's got two starts under his belt now and an ERA of 0.90 in ten innings, it's a crime that we haven't scored enough for him to factor into a decision yet. He's pitched well enough to win in both starts. Jonathan Meyer on the other hand, is getting shelled, and he took the loss on Friday. I gave him a pass on his first appearance against UAB because it was essentially a meaningless inning. But his job against Maine was to keep the score at 4-4 and get the Tigers up to bat again in the 8th, with all the momentum on our side after putting up 4 in the 7th. And what does he do? Faces six batters and gives up three hits while walking another, losing the game in the process. There's a difference between pitching to contact in order to get help from your defense, and throwing batting practice. Meyer was tossing BP out there and Maine was having a field day with it. Scott Firth came in to stop the bleeding and finish things up, but the damage had already been done.
Despite Meyer's best efforts, we actually had a shot at winning this thing in the 9th. With Thomas Brittle and Phil Pohl leading the way with three hits apiece, Clemson had finally cracked into Maine's bullpen and got Stephen Perakslis out of there, who had thrown six scoreless innings before folding up in the 7th. Jonathan Ballentina (1-0) walked the first two Tiger batters in the 9th before being relieved by Shaun Coughlin, and McGibbon put a bunt down to get the tying run into scoring position. Spencer Kieboom followed this with a line drive to left centerfield that was caught by Colin Gay. This sacrifice fly left Clemson down 6-5 with the tying run at second before Brad Felder flew out to left field to end the game.
The bottom line in this game is that Clemson simply got out-executed and didn't perform in the clutch. Clemson stranded 11 runners while Maine scored all of their runs with two outs.
Box score for Friday's game: here.
Saturday: Clemson-9 , Maine-5
After looking almost unhittable in his first start last week, Dominic Leone (2-0) got roughed up early as Maine scored four runs in the 3rd inning on five hits. Dom kept his composure after that and pitched two more scoreless innings while Clemson put up seven runs behind him to get the win. Richie Shaffer had three hits and Pohl and Kieboom both hit home runs (their second and first of the season, respectively), as Clemson knocked around Maine starter Jeffrey Gibbs (0-1) for five runs in the 5th to counter Maine's four spot earlier in the game.
Clemson's bullpen looked solid in this game, as Mike Kent and Patrick Andrews combined for three scoreless innings while Clemson built up their lead, and Clay Bates came on and closed the door, giving up one run in a mop up inning. It was nice to see Dom regain his focus and put on another performance, this time last year I would have expected him to fold up had something like that happened to him early in a game.
I also liked seeing Clemson actually counterpunch after Maine put up their first four runs. Clemson didn't respond by taking the lead in the next half inning, but they chipped away instead of going down quietly, which is something to be happy about. If the pitching staff is going to be inconsistent at times, Clemson's bats need to be ready to punch back and score at any given time.
With this win, Clemson evened the series and improved to 3-2 on the year. Box score from Saturday is here.
Sunday: Clemson-9 , Maine-6
For the third straight game, Maine jumped out to a 4+ run lead on Clemson and forced the Tigers to try to come from behind. On Sunday it was a 6 run lead that was built up over three innings that resulted in starter David Haselden being bounced after three innings. Get Haselden out of the starting rotation. Now. His ERA is only 3.86 on the season, but that's not telling the whole story. He's only thrown seven innings in his two starts, which looks even worse when you consider that Kevin Pohle, the guy who has relieved him in both starts, has also thrown seven. Opposing hitters are hitting .400 off of Haselden, and that is not even close to what is expected out of a starter. Kevin Pohle came out and put on another good relief outing; he was not at fault for any of the runs that were scored off of him on Sunday. When you drop a pop fly in the outfield, I don't care if the pitcher gives up 5 straight home runs after that, he should have been out of the inning. Kevin Pohle should have been credited with three scoreless innings, but a dropped pop fly cost both him and Clemson, and contributed to their deficit.
Pohle rebounded after the dropped pop fly and threw two more scoreless innings, while Scott Firth and Daniel Gossett came on and shut Maine out the rest of the way. Just like Saturday, the bullpen came to play on Sunday.
Clemson put up two runs in the 4th and 5th innings, courtesy of a two out home run by Shaffer. In the 6th inning it all fell apart for Maine. Mike Connolly relieved starter Shaun Coughlin, and after getting Brad Felder to ground out to begin the inning, the next few at-bats went like this: walk, single, single, foul out, double, double, single, fly out. This resulted in 5 runs and all of the momentum swinging purely in the Tigers direction. With Steve Wilkerson's four hits and Shaffer adding two, this was more than enough for the Clemson bullpen to relax and just throw strikes to finish the game.
Kevin Pohle (2-0) got the win, just like he did in Haselden's last start. Clemson improved to 4-2 and won the series 2-1. Box score for Sunday here.
Clemson won the last two games of the series again to take the series 2-1. It simply comes down to guys who are getting it done and guys who aren't, especially on the pitching staff. David Haselden has to go. I don't know if he is in the starting rotation, but I just thank my lucky stars that it's Kevin Pohle and not Jonathan Meyer relieving him on Sundays. Pohle has been a saving grace out of the bullpen and hopefully his arm can handle a lot more innings, either as a starter or just in terms of more appearances over a weekend, because he needs to see a lot more time. Scott Firth looked solid as well, along with Kevin Brady and Dominic Leone. Leone really showed me a lot by bouncing back after that rough inning; hopefully he doesn't have too many more of those.
As far as the bats go, Pohl is swinging a good one, and Kieboom is hitting line drives right at people. Shaffer is starting to come around, and hopefully Wilkerson tallying four hits gets him in a groove that lasts a while. I like Attanasio in the lineup moreso than Slaton; when it comes to the bat, Slaton just isn't ready yet. Felder has his moments, and I see him staying around the 7 spot while the other bats pick up (wishful thinking). All in all, they've been inconsistent, but it's nice to see a couple of nine run efforts. Now it's time to start scoring early and often, instead of waiting until we're losing by 4 to start hitting the ball.
Clemson returns to action this weekend against 2nd-ranked South Carolina. The coots have a pitching staff and a half (they only gave up 7 hits in the series against Elon), and it's going to take a solid effort from our bats to keep us in the game. If our pitching folds and we fall behind early every game like we did against Maine, chalk us up for 0-3 in that series, because South Carolina will keep their foot on the gas.