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Chris Epps conquers SC pitching, Tigers win series 2-1

David Haselden shut down Sakerlina Friday night.
David Haselden shut down Sakerlina Friday night.

Leggett SC postgame

Mark Ethridge at SEBaseball (Rivals) was in attendence for the series and wrote several good columns you should take a look at. Here's his column from Game 1.

I have often called this the best rivalry in college baseball. Now that the teams are meeting three times on a weekend, they really have a chance to prove it.

"Since they added new stands it is pretty loud," admitted South Carolina starting pitcher Blake Cooper. "The atmosphere is great here at Clemson."

(It probably hurt a bit to say that. Maybe he had his fingers crossed inside his jacket.)

"There have been a lot of good ones and tonight was a classic," said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. "In the first inning I thought they were going to knock the fences down."

"I thought this was going to be one of those nights when we got things rolling but Cooper settled down and did a nice job," said Clemson coach Jack Leggett.

Game 1 - Former Spartanburg High standout David Haselden pitched 4 hitless innings in relief of Casey Harman, holding the Gamecock bats silent and propelling Clemson to a 4-3 win Friday night (with video highlights) at Tiger Field.

The Gamecocks took a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning on Adrian Morales' sac fly. But the Tigers scored single runs in the seventh and eighth innings on two-out singles by Stolz and Boyd, respectively, to give the Tigers the one-run win.

Chris Epps went 2-for-3 with 2 runs scored and solo HR, Jeff Schaus added another solo shot going 1-for-4, and Jason Stolz went 2-for-3 with an RBI.  

Casey Harman went 5, giving up 8 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 walks and 5Ks. Haselden got the win (2-0), yielding 1 walk and 3 Ks including the game-ender over Brison Celek. Haselden could end up starting in a midweek game very soon I suspect. So far he has 7 1/3 innings pitched, and hasn't given up a single hit in 3 games.

"He's a very intelligent kid. He's a methodical thinker. He's always under control. He pitches just like he acts all the time. He's just under control. You kind of know what you're going to get out of him."

"He's been consistent for us. He throws strikes, and he's got a pretty good breaking ball. And he throws his fastball well. He spots that thing up and his ball kind of dips and dives away from a left-hander. He's just an in-control, level-headed pitcher for us."

Game 2 - Clemson's bullpen collapsed in the 9th, giving the chickens a 7-5 win at Fluor Field in Greenville. The Tigers grabbed a 4-0 lead after two innings on Sam Dyson, but the Gamecocks chipped away and eventually tied the score in the seventh inning. Then three two-out, run-scoring hits in the ninth inning proved to be the difference in the game.

In the 9th with one out and a 4-4 tie, Tomas Cruz walked Scott Wingo and was relieved by Jack's current go-to guy Jonathan Meyer. Meyer got the first batter out, then Wingo stole 2nd base. Gamecock leadoff hitter Whit Merrifield doubled to right-center, scoring Wingo to make it 5-4. Jackie Bradley followed with a RBI single to RF and a bad throw by Parker (missed cutoff) to home let Bradley make it to 2nd.  Meyer walked the next batter before Dominic Leone was brought in, and then gave up another RBI single to LF from Enders.

Chris Epps went 2-for-5 with 2 runs scored and Mike Freeman went 2-for-5 with a RBI to drive in Epps in the 9th with 2 outs. 

Will Lamb started and went 5.1 IP, 3H, 2ER, 4 walks, and 1 K.

Ethridge's column from Game 2.

As reporters tried to conduct the postgame interviews, "We are the Champions" blared over the PA system. 'Kind of early for that', I remarked. But for a early March game, this one has plenty of juice. And tomorrow's winner will boast a championship.

"It is a big game anytime you play them," said Leggett.

"We wanted to even the series up," said Merrifield, "take it back to Columbia and play good tomorrow."

But they didnt.

Game 3 - Chris Epps' Grand Slam got the Tigers off to an early start with a 6 spot in the 2nd Inning, and Phil Pohl smacked another one in the 9th to lift Clemson to a 19-6 win in front of a crowd of 8214 in Columbia.

Chris Epps went 3-for-6 with a Grand Slam and a RBI single and 2 Rs scored. Mike Freeman followed him in the lineup with a 3-for-6 performance, 3 Rs scored and a solo HR. Addison Johnson hit a solo shot, Richie Shaffer went 1-for-4 with a 3 Run HR in the 6th and 3 Rs scored and Phil Pohl hit a Grand Slam in his only at-bat in the 9th. The Tigers only had 14 hits, and were helped by 11 SC walks and 3 errors. The only alarming stat from this game is the 12 strikeouts by Clemson batters.

Scott Weismann was solid over 6, giving up 5 hits, 2 earned runs, 2 walks and struck out 5 to get the W. Dominic Leone and Alex Frederick were a little shaky again in relief but Kevin Kyle put the Cluckers away in the 9th to end the massacre. Carolina starter Tyler Webb lasted just 1.1 innings and took the L as Clemson tore through the gamecock pitching staff.  Also pitching for USC were Steven Neff (two innings, one hit, four runs), Jay Brown (2.2 innings, two hits, three runs), John Taylor (0.1 inning, one hit, one run), Alex Burrell (0.2 innings, no hits, no runs), Patrick Sullivan (one inning, three hits, two runs), Colby Holmes (0.1 inning, three hits, five runs) and Jose Mata (0.2 innings, no hits or runs).

it was the most runs Clemson has scored in Columbia ever, and since 18 in 1917. It was the most runs we've scored against Sakerlina since 1962.

Brad Miller made his 6th error of the year in 10 games...his bat isnt worth 6 errors to me. That shit has to change fast. We've given up 11 unearned runs so far this year.

Jack commented on the series, lamenting the lack of aggression at the plate in the middle innings.

"We talked about that, getting off to the good starts and letting them back in the game," Leggett said. "We got into a little bit of a lull on Saturday afternoon and couldn’t get the momentum back. We said we needed to play all nine innings today and we did that. We just happened to hit on all cylinders out there today and it was tough to stop us."

Chris Epps went 7-for-14 in the series with 7 runs scored and 6 RBI. As I hoped in the series preview, Epps would have to get hot at the plate at some point to give us a shot. You can't expect a team to consistently produce without a solid hitter leading off. Epps raised his season average to .286 and has a team high 9 walks for a .432 OBP.

Clemson’s Chris Epps was named the Bob Bradley Most Valuable Player for the Tigers in the Reedy River Rivalry’s three game series, hitting a couple of homers and driving in five runs, including a grand slam on Sunday, but he said he would gladly share the award with his teammates.

"It’s a nice accomplishment, but like I told the other guys, it’s a team effort," Epps said. "Everybody today, as you could see, put a good swing on the ball. Whoever we put in there, one through 15, went up there ready to hit. Yesterday, I thought we were a little too timid, and today there was a big difference. I don’t think it’s the stadium, but it’s how we need to hit all the time." (source)

Also leading the offense this weekend were Mike Freeman (6-for-14, 3 R, 2 RBI) and Jeff Schaus (4 RBI). The middle of the order wasn't so dominant otherwise. Kyle Parker went 1-for-9, Wilson Boyd went 3-for-14, and Shaffer 3-for-11.

John Nester still makes me scratch my head. He's hitting 2-for-21 to start the season, while Pohl is 5-for-12.  Wilson Boyd is struggling as well, hitting .235 to start. If Addison Johnson knew how to hit a baseball, Boyd would be in trouble. I think I would find a way to get Pohl into this lineup more though, perhaps more DH duty while he has a hot bat.

KP still leads the team offensively at .378-4-10, with 7 walks so far. Schaus immediately follows at .351-2-15.

The Tigers will have a midweek game Wednesday at 4pm against Gardner Webb before hosting 10-1 NC State next weekend. NCSU swept Quinnipiac this weekend by scores of 17-6, 14-3, and 17-7 and are cruising right along offensively. They are currently only 2 points behind FSU in BA, and lead in nearly every other offensive category. We'll see what pitching we have this weekend.