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Clemson pitching stifles Hokies

Second Baseman Mike Freeman made several great plays today, but not many others did.
Second Baseman Mike Freeman made several great plays today, but not many others did.

On Friday afternoon, Casey Harman (4-0) lifted the post-Tournament depression with a gem. Virginia Tech hitters were kept totally off balance and Harman held them to just one hit over 7 1/3 innings, while walking 3 and striking out 4. Harman's command was very good Friday, he mixed his breaking ball and fastball well, and his changeup was exceptional. He did get away with a few hangers however.

In the 7th, VT's Andrew Rash worked the count full before grounding to Freeman, and then Harman was pulled in favor of David Haselden, who held them hitless for the save. Unless Harman was on a strict pitch limit, I saw no reason to take him out. It was the longest outing of his career and for a one-hitter, I would've left him in there.

In the series preview i felt like VT's pitching would let them down, but it didnt. Justin Wright came in with an ERA over 6.00 and despite having a few shaky innings he held us to 2 runs in 5 2/3 innings. Clemson was never able to get a hit when it could've blown the game open, and we stranded 10 runners on the day. From watching this one, I noticed Clemson hitters swinging at too many sucker pitches, plate discipline was way down.

Clemson's first run was a result of a Mike Freeman Sac Fly, scoring Will Lamb. The 2nd was a bases-loaded walk to John Hinson in the 6th, and the last was a result of weak VT defense behind ace closer Ben Rowen. Wilson Boyd reached on an error by the 2B followed by a single from Brad Milller and Boyd was thrown out at the plate. Hinson reached on another error by the 2nd baseman and then Nester singled. With the bases loaded, Lamb walked, forcing in Miller to make it 3-0.

In Game 2, the first of a doubleheader Saturday, Clemson faced future 1st round pick Jesse Hahn on the mound and beat him soundly 5-2. A string of hits in the first inning put us up 2-0 early and Hahn was chased in the 6th after giving up 4 runs and 10 hits. A Parker RBI Single in the 3rd made it 3-0. The Tigers increased their lead in the sixth inning when Parker led off with an opposite-field, solo home run to right field, his ninth of the season. It was Parker's 35th career home run, moving him into a tie for 10th place in the Clemson recordbook in that category. It was also the first homer allowed by Hahn in 2010.

Countering Hahn was Will Lamb, who was solid in 6 innings (7H 1R 0ER 2BB 2Ks) to get the W (2-0).  Clemson's pitching let guys on base, but VT could never get a hit to blow the game open, stranding 13 runners. Alex Frederick got the 3-inning save (2).

Scott Weismann started game 3 and was pretty shaky from the start but got the win (3-0) as CU pulled it out 13-8. He had considerable trouble keeping command of his slider and curve, so VT hitters were sitting on his fastball until the 3rd inning when he began to settle down. He ended up with 6 innings of work, allowing 6 hits, 2 runs (1 earned), while walking 1 and striking out 7. VT stranded a runner in every one of his innings except the 4th however.

Dominic Leone and Tomas Cruz were shaky in relief, and the Clemson defense choked particularly badly behind Cruz in the 8th. On one single to center, Addison Johnson threw to 3rd base to take out a runner, and the ball skipped past Hinson to the dugout shield. Cruz's own error on a throw let them plate another run and then a homer made it 10-8.

Clemson got big days from less-heralded hitters Addison Johnson (2/4, 1R, 3 RBIs) and John Nester (2/4, 4 RBIs), as well as a big day from Wilson Boyd (3/4, 2 RBI, 3 R) and Kyle Parker (2/4, 3 R).

My opinion after watching Cruz pitch is that his first problem is that his release point is all over the place, it could be mechanical (most likely) or mental, but I didnt see a mechanical flaw. I counted at least 3 different points of release from watching him -- varying from straight overhand to a high 3-quarter on what appeared to be a breaking ball. His change is still good but he doesnt know where its going.

Clemson lost 1B Richie Shaffer in the Top of the 3rd on a throw by Miller. Shaffer stretched for the out and did a full split, coming off the bag. He left the game in severe pain, likely either a torn or severely pulled groin. I did not hear a final word. It appears that we'll be seeing Will Lamb or Boyd much more at 1B.

By biggest complaint from watching this game was the defense. Both teams were absolutely terrible, and Clemson the worse of the two with 5 errors. Coming into today we are fielding at a .955 clip, 2nd worst in the ACC to WFs .953. After today, I would guess that will switch. Clemson's defense so far this season is the worst I've ever seen for a D-1 baseball team. Brad Miller chipped in as usual with 2 errors today and 3 on the weekend by my count. He now has 12 in 19 games, he had 23 all of last year.

Thats shitty folks. It doesnt matter how you slice it. I'll point out for those who only watch MLB that the aluminum bat makes bat speeds higher, and so the balls come off faster, but 12 errors is still too much. You can make excuses for him if you want because he's a great hitter, but there is no reason on this Earth that justifies making 12 in 19 games for any position on the field. From what I've seen, he has no business being out there on defense. He is not able to go to either side and doesnt charge on the ball, and his accuracy on throws is similarly bad. I would take a .250 hitter at SS instead of someone who gives 4 innings worth of outs to the other team.

Clemson has a good problem in that we have an abundance of OF's who can hit, and we can't get them all on the field. We have Chris Epps with speed and plate discipline and the ability to work alot of pitches at the top, who hit the ball hard enough but just can't get them to fall. Schaus and Parker can't be taken out because of their hitting -- though they are not exactly impressive fielders, they don't get nearly the chances to screw up. Wilson Boyd has been a bit streaky but he also hits the ball hard enough. Thats 4 guys for 3 spots, with the weakest hitter being Epps.

We don't have enough middle infielders with arm strength, so we're kind of stuck. With Hinson in at 3rd more for Stolz this weekend, you can either swap the two (Stolz/Hinson for Miller), or take Miller off the field entirely. I'd have to say that I'd have to put both Stolz and Hinson in, moving Miller to DH, even though Stolz's game isn't making me enthusiastic about the idea (5 errors and a .219 average). 12 errors is inexcusable.

Offensively, the top and middle of the lineup did pretty well for the series. Brad Miller went 3-for-9 with 2 runs scored, Kyle Parker went 4-for-11 with 5 runs scored, 1 HR and 2 RBI; and Wilson Boyd  went 6-for-12 with 3 RBI and 3 runs scored by my quick count.

Clemson's win in the series-finale marked its 14th home victory in a row against the Turkeys. The Tigers' 6-0 ACC start is also their best since 2004, when they also started 6-0 in league play.

Clemson has Elon at home Tues-Weds afternoons, both at 6:30pm. We go on the road to #1 Virginia next weekend.