After this week's midweek games, it was tough to tell where this team stood, AGAIN. Take two games from a top 10 team, pound Winthrop, and then get SMASHED by Western Carolina at home. We made 4 errors in that game, which is starting to seem like an everyday thing, and our pitchers couldn't bear down and get the outs they needed after those errors.
But of course, just when this team gets us ready to scratch our heads and say this season is a lost cause, they throw together a good weekend of baseball. Granted, it WAS Duke. They made 8 errors this weekend. It doesn't matter at this point. While this team is the farthest thing from consistent, we're in no position to complain about a sweep when we can get one. I'm not going to call us anything close to world beaters right now, but I am glad that these guys put together a good ACC series against a team that has been very scrappy and competitive, despite their lack of statistical dominance.
Game details and recap after the jump.....
Friday: Clemson 4, Duke 1 (11 innings)
Clemson stranded 9 and was the beneficiary of 4 Duke errors, but still needed extra innings to beat Duke 4-1 on Friday night. Kevin Brady pitched a solid 6 innings, giving up only 1 run on 4 hits, while striking out 3 and walking only 1. The Tigers pounded out 10 hits, with Shaffer leading the way with a 2-for-4 effort.
Credit goes to Scotty Firth for keeping Clemson in the game after Brady exited to start the 7th. Firth pitched the final 5 innings and only gave up 3 hits, although he did walk 5 (unacceptable). The important thing is that he didn't give up any runs and Duke wasn't able to capitalize on these extra base runners. It's nice to see our bullpen pull through and get out of some jams.
McGibbon led off the 11th inning with a triple, and following a walk, two hits, and a couple of past balls, we had been given three runs. This ended up being the difference in the game, and with the 4 errors they made, quite honestly, it was nice to see somebody ELSE give the game away instead of us.
While I'll take a win any day, it was kind of discouraging to see that we needed extra innings to beat this team. Duke is scrappy, but being given that many opportunities by a team should have resulted in a curb stomping, and that wasn't the case. We're going to need to do better about putting our feet on other teams' throats and keeping ourselves out of these extra inning situations, because I don't see our bullpen holding up every time we play bonus baseball.
Saturday: Clemson 11, Duke 5
Clemson scored 5 insurance runs in the top of the 9th inning thanks to a bases clearing triple by Thomas Brittle, and Clemson took the series with an 11-5 win on Saturday.
Clemson struck in the first inning with an RBI single from Shaffer, and twice in the third on a Pohl sac fly and a McGibbon single. After two runs in the 6th and 1 in the 7th, Clemson held a 6-5 lead going into the 9th, and if you've been paying attention to Clemson baseball at ALL this year you know that that's not even CLOSE to a safe lead. Brittle helped though with one of his 4 hits on the day being the RBI triple. Duke went quietly in the 9th to secure the victory for the Tigers.
Just like a pitcher can be "tough luck" loser in a game, he can also be a cheap winner. That was the case with Dominic Leone, who gave up 4 earned runs in 6.1 innings, giving up 9 hits and walking 2 while striking out 9. Patrick Andrews did fine closing the game out, giving up 1 run in the final 2.2 innings on 3 hits. It seems like we're going to Andrews a lot more in late inning situations; he's been giving us some pretty solid innings lately so I can't say I have a problem with this.
Duke made 2 more errors and Clemson stranded 11. We have to stop stranding this many runners on a nightly basis; it seems like we're good for at least 9 per night.
Sunday: Clemson 4, Duke 2
Spencer Kieboom led the way for the Tigers going 3-for-3 and Kevin Pohle had a no hitter going into the 6th inning, and Clemson pushed across 4 runs in the 8th inning to steal the final game of the series and finish off the sweep.
Pohle tailed off at the end a little bit, but only gave up 2 runs on 4 hits and one walk in 7 innings. I'll take that effort everyday from our starting pitcher, and quite frankly, that's what I expect from a Clemson starter in general. Gossett pitched a perfect 8th and then got into a jam in the bottom of the 9th. He gave up a single and a double to put the tying run at second with two outs before getting the final batter to top one back to the mound for the final out. As much as I think I want to see Gossett be a weekend starter, I'd feel much more comfortable if he could be lights out coming out of the pen. You can NEVER have too good of a closer/bullpen.
Clemson busted the game open in the 8th inning. Down 2-0, Richie singled to center field, and was followed by a single through the left side of the infield. McGibbon walked and then Jay Baum cleared the bases with a double to right center. After a Brad Felder groundout moved Baum to third with one out, Kieboom hit a sac fly to center field to plate the fourth Tiger run of the game. A lot of credit needs to go to Brad Felder for doing his job and moving the runner over to third. If he doesn't do that, Kieboom's fly ball to center field means nothing, and Gossett is pitching with the WINNING run on second base in the 9th. Who knows how the freshman reacts in that situation, so let's just say I was happy to see Brad get it done.
There was no box score available at the time of this post, but it can be found here later by clicking on the "Schedule/Results" section toward the top and then clicking on the Sunday game on the schedule.
Clemson gets the sweep they needed, and I expected nothing less. Duke is compettive, but at the end of the day, it's Duke. We're Clemson. As arrogant as that sounds, that's just the way it is. You do NOT lose to Duke in anything but basketball, and probably lacrosse. Combine that fact with the 8 errors they made over the course of the weekend, and anything less than a sweep would have been a disappointment. I can let go of the fact that Clemson needed extra innings on Friday, so long as that doesn't become a frequent occurence for the rest of the season. We have to start putting teams away. I expect 11-0 wins over Winthrop; I don't expect 13-8 losses to WCU and 4-2 wins over Duke. Our bullpen has it's moments, but I still don't trust it enough to constantly get us through close games. I do like seeing the offense come through in the clutch though. We're going to need that timely hitting to come along if we're going to win the games we're supposed to, and steal a few that we're not. Hits like Brittle's bases clearing triple, and Baum's bases clearing double show that this team HAS the ability to get it done when they need to. They just have to start doing it consistently and this team might be able to get somewhere. In the meantime, I'll take 8-7 in the ACC after starting 3-6.
Clemson goes to Greenville on Tuesday to take on Furman, and then they get Georgia to come into town on Wednesday for the second game of that season series. If this Clemson team really wants to turn the corner on this season and possibly put something together, they need to bash Furman on Tuesday, and prove that that win two weeks ago at Foley Field was no fluke by beating Georgia again at our field. The rest of the schedule is extremely manageable, with the Florida State and North Carolina State series at home, and series with Wake Forest, Maryland, and Georgia Tech making up the rest of the ACC docket. This team can make a move if they crack down and play well on the weekend like they have the past two. That will get this team into the ACC tournament. Winning the midweek games and padding that record will get us into the NCAA's.