Clemson's baseball team looked to improve their ACC record on the road this past weekend in Blacksburg, Va. against the Virginia Tech Hokies. The series featured three rather exciting games, from two pitcher's duels and one offensive explosion from the Tigers, and Clemson won the series 2-1. With the weekend matchups, the Tigers brought their season record to 11-11 and 4-5 in conference play, while the Hokies also found themselves at .500 with a 12-12 overall record and a winning record of 5-4 in the ACC.
The first game was a pitcher's duel, as the matchup was scoreless until sophomore catcher Chris Okey smashed a grand slam to left field with two outs in the top of the tenth inning to seal the Tigers' 4-0 victory. The slam was Okey's third homer of the year and came after Virginia Tech walked the bases loaded.
"First of all, the guys in front of me had fantastic at-bats to get that opportunity," Okey said. "I was there, just trying to see a ball and hit a ball, and, luckily enough, he hung a changeup there in the middle of the plate, and I put a good swing on it and it squeaked over. It's big for us. We built our momentum this whole year, but haven't really had that last punch, so to do that right there was big time for us."
The real story of the game, however, was the pitching, as both starters went at least eight scoreless innings. Tiger starter Matthew Crownover had an impressive game, giving up only five hits, no runs and no walks with seven strikeouts in 8.1 innings pitched, and sophomore reliever Drew Moyer (1-0) earned the win. Crownover lowered his ERA to 1.09 on the season, as he's allowed only five earned runs all year, including just one in three ACC starts.
"Early on, it was a little bit of a struggle," Crownover said. "I had some guys on base, but I kept on keeping at it and found my breaking ball and changeup later in the game. IT's a great team win, and you just can't give enough credit to [Chris] Okey's getting the big hit in the clutch moment. It was crazy. I jumped over the fence and gave him a big hug. We got in a little trouble for excessive celebration, but it's alright."
Game two featured much more offense, as the Tigers exploded for a season-high 15 runs on 21 hits; each starter got at least one hit and, in the first four innings, had scored at least one run in the 15-8 win. The 21 hits were Clemson's most since May 2011, when they compiled 23 against Davidson.
The Tigers scored two runs in the second inning on redshirt freshman Glenn Batson's first career home run. Batson earned the start at first base after junior Andrew Cox sprained his ankle sliding into second base during game one. The scoring continued in the next inning, as Clemson added four more runs on RBI from redshirt freshman Reed Rohlman, Okey and sophomore Weston Wilson. Rohlman led the Tigers in hits on Saturday, going three-for-four with two doubles, a career high four RBI and a stolen base.
"We've got a good lineup," said Rohlman of the 15 runs on 21 hits. "We knew we did from the beginning and today, when we really started clicking it together, it feels good. Now, we need to stay where we're at and come out more and do the same thing."
The big inning in game two was the fourth, where the Tigers added six more runs to put the lead out of reach of the Hokies. Included in those six runs was another first career home run, this time off the bat of freshman second baseman Chase Pinder, a two-run shot down the left field line.
Clemson starter Brody Koerner (3-2) earned the win, pitching 5.0 innings and allowing only a single run in each of the first four innings.
The Tigers tried to take the offensive momentum into game three of the series, scoring three runs in the first inning after two errors by the Hokies. However, that was the extent of the offensive production for Clemson on Sunday, and they fell 4-3 in 12 innings. Despite the loss, junior Tyler Krieger extending his hitting streak to 10 games, marking his second double-digit game hitting streak this season. Krieger has also reached base in 24 straight games dating back to 2014, as has fellow junior Steven Duggar. Duggar had an RBI in Saturday's game as well.
"We just had many opportunities offensively today; we had guys on base and had some opportunities late," Head Coach Jack Leggett said after the final game. "Reed Rohlman hit the ball as good as you can hit it with the bases loaded, so we just couldn't catch a break. We played better. I thought we played better, and we competed, and we were in ballgames. I saw a lot of good and positive things, and we won the series, but we're in a situation where we have to make some noise in a real positive direction and have to keep on working at it."
Clemson will return to action on Tuesday at 5 p.m., travelling to Cullowhee, N.C. to face Western Carolina.