If I may steal a term I've been seeing a lot lately when referring to Clemson baseball, our "Jekyll and Hyde" team decided to be Jekyll this weekend and win a series, and against a top ten team, no less. I've been critical so far this year because this team has deserved nothing less than that. This weekend however, they deserve praise for doing what it took to get the series win. After the PC loss, I had lost all faith in this team's ability to perform consistently. They teased me with a win over Georgia, and then went out there and shit the bed against a PC team that has no business being on the same field as us.
After that loss however, it was reported that the Tigers showed up to practice the next day and held only a meeting, where they apparently put all of their problems and shortcomings as a team into open air and discussed the intensity and focus that was going to be required if they are to salvage the season. I stated in a comment on the preview article that while I'm not a believer in the overnight fix, it was nice to see an intensity this weekend that just seemed to be missing in the previous games. Nobody here is unreasonable and thinks Clemson should win every single baseball game they play, but the least we can ask for is that the team come out and play hard on a nightly basis and don't take a gameday off, effortwise. These guys seemed to bring the intensity this weekend, which was great to see. Even though Sunday's game feels like one that got away, we still came away from this weekend with two more wins than I expected, and hopefully our guys can build on that.
Friday: Clemson 3, Miami 1 (box)
Kevin Brady was all over the place for 3.1 innings, walking 5 and giving up 3 hits, but also only surrendered one run. Our bullpen came out and put on a performance that 4 days ago, I would have never believed could happen. Matt Campbell and Scott Firth combined to give up just one hit over the final 5.2 innings, shutting down a Miami club that was hitting right around .300 as a team coming into this weekend. Matt Campbell picked up the win Peter O'Brien entered the weekend holding the Miami triple crown, but was kept largely off balance by Tiger pitchers and ended up only going 1-for-4.
Clemson started off the game with a run in the bottom of the first on a two out RBI single by Phil Pohl. This was a reassuring start to the series given our recent struggles (to put it lightly) at the plate with runners in scoring position. Miami gave us a chance to tack on some more in the 5th with 2 of their 4 errors. The two fielding errors loaded the bases for us before Jay Baum struck out looking. After this it started looking like the same old same old: we squander an opportunity to put up runs, and surely our bullpen can't hold up much longer? An implosion must be coming. Well thankfully, that wasn't the case. The bullpen grindded it out and didn't allow a runner to get into scoring position after the 4th inning - again, no small feat. A sac fly by Brittle in the 6th and a two out double by Steve Wilkerson gave us the final score at 3-1.
Yes, Miami made 4 errors. Yes, Miami stranded 9 runners like we did. I don't care, I'll take a win like this anytime. Fact is it's nice to catch a few breaks when you're use to seeing the Tigers give the game away.
Saturday: Clemson 3, Miami 1 (box)
In what was virtually a repeat of Friday's game, the Tigers shocked myself as well as many other fans by taking the second game and the series on Saturday at DK Stadium. I didn't believe what I was seeing; it was like we were FINALLY playing the baseball that everybody knew this team was capable of at the beginning of the season. This series win is exactly what the Tigers needed, and you could see the excitement in the players when the final out was made. They wanted this one.
HUGE kudos go to Dominic Leone for pitching his ass off on Saturday. After receiving much-deserved criticism for his perfomance lately, he showed exactly what he can do when he makes up his mind that he wants to do well. He gave up one run on six hits, while also issuing three walks in seven innings. I was ready to write Leone off as a weekend starter, but hopefully this performance is something he can build on and replicate in future starts.
Patrick Andrews deserves some mention as well, closing the door and only giving up one hit in the final two innings. He got ahead of the six batters he faced and really threw some great pitches. I like the focus I saw from both he and Leone as the game went on; it was nice to see our pitchers go out there and look like they really wanted to shut down Miami.
Miami made three more errors on Saturday, the first of which allowed Clemson's first run in the second. Dom Attanasio reached on a fielding error after a Kieboom single. Kieboom was then driven in by a two out double by Tyler Slaton in the extended inning. In the 7th, Clemson looked for a second like they may have screwed themselves out of an inning. Stolz led off with an infield single, but Slaton's sacrifice bunt was picked up by Miami starter Eric Whaley. Whaley wheeled around and forced Stolz out at second, negating the sacrifice. Wilkerson followed with a bunt single and Brittle flew out to right field before Richie ripped the first pitch he saw into the leftfield corner for a 2 RBI double. These two runs were more than enough for Patrick Andrews to close the door in a solid relief effort.
Again, you could see it in the players' reactions after the last out, that they really wanted this win. If they bust their tails and show the same intensity game in and game out, I'll be satisfied even in a losing effort. Fortunately that wasn't necessary, and the Tigers took the series with the Saturday win.
Sunday: Miami 4, Clemson 2 (box)
Three runs on 4 hits in the Miami 7th proved to be the difference, as the Tigers couldn't finish off the sweep and dropped the Sunday game by a score of 4-2.
Kevin Pohle pitched a solid six innings, giving up one run on six hits and one walk. I can't figure out how he gets through the innings that he does, because he's given up more than a quarter of all of our extra base hits, and opponents are hitting .270 off of him. Regardless, this guy finds a way to get outs, and I really do feel comfortable with him out on the mound for us.
The game went to crap when we put Mike Kent in to start the 7th. The first two batters he faced knocked singles, and then he gave up a two out, 2 RBI single which was followed by a triple to make the score 4-2. Up to that point, the Hurricanes had gotten only one run on 8 hits, so eventually they were bound to string a few together and push some runs across.
We got busted by our own baserunning and execution blunders in the 6th. After plating a run on three straight singles to start the inning, Richie gets picked off of third base. Who gets picked off of third base nowadays?? You're 90 feet away and can score on a single, a past ball/wild pitch, a sac fly, a ground ball up the middle, etc. Why do you need the extra jump or extra lead at third base that leads to you getting picked off? It makes no sense. The pitcher already knows you're at third base, why would you do anything to draw extra attention to yourself? Anyways, Richie gets picked off, and Pohl gets caught stealing on what looked like a botched hit and run. Kieboom didn't swing and Pohl was left out to dry, getting caught for the second out. We then got two walks and a single right behind these pickoffs, which left me shaking my head at what could have been in that inning.
As if Kieboom wasn't having a bad enough game, he pops up a bunt in the 8th inning that, if executed, would have put the tying run at second base with McGibbon up. If that had been executed properly, McGibbon's ground ball to the second baseman would have resulted in an RBI, or at the very least would have only resulted in ONE out, instead of the double play that it was. Clemson went quietly in the 9th to drop the final game of the set.
Dropping this game sucked, badly. However, I think I was so caught up in the first two wins that I was willing to throw them a bone. It's not like they didn't put up a fight the rest of the way after falling behind. As critical as I am, I'll give them a lot of credit for showing up like they did.
I came into this weekend expecting Clemson to get swept. We had shown no signs that we were going to be able to come play consistently and steal a win from Miami. I will give our guys credit though: it appears that they came into this series with a different attitude than they had taken before, and it showed up in the win column twice for them. All the credit to the bullpen for holding Miami down in the first two games, even if it did get away a little bit in the Sunday game. I do feel like we let that Sunday game slip, as we had a few opportunities to push some runs across and possibly get the sweep, but I can't complain with two wins against Miami this weekend. I can only hope that they take this same approach to every game they play, ESPECIALLY THE MIDWEEK GAMES. Those are supposed to be more or less "gimme" games, and Clemson needs to win those and steal a few more ACC series if we have any hope of talking about a potential regional berth.
Clemson gets back into action Tuesday and Wednesday of this week with games against Winthrop and Western Carolina. We owe Western Carolina. We gave that game away and need to go thrash them and hopefully get a spark back to this season. After those two midweek games, we head to Durham to take on a competent Duke team that lost two of three to Georgia Tech in Atlanta this past weekend, including a 1-0 decision.
I'd like to be optimistic about the next week, but I'm going to need to see two solid showings in the midweek before I believe that the focus is going to be there to stay. I hope it is, but I can't hop on board until I see some consistency. So here's to it.