For their first ACC matchups of the year, the baseball team travelled to Raleigh, N.C. to face the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Doak Field. While the Tigers got off to a solid start on Friday, winning 6-4, their pitching struggled on Saturday and Sunday, and State won the series 2-1. The two losses on Saturday and Sunday marked the first time in 2015 that Clemson had lost back-to-back games. The series dropped Clemson to 8-6 overall and 1-2 in conference play, while State improved to 9-4 and 2-1 in the ACC.
The first game was highlighted by a five-run seventh inning, and the Tigers topped the Wolfpack 6-4. Clemson started the scoring early, as junior Steven Duggar hit a RBI single to right field to score senior Tyler Slaton in the first inning. The Tiger bats then went cold until the seventh inning, where they scored five runs in somewhat unusual fashion. All five runs were scored with two outs, and four of them were due to wild pitches. The fifth was courtesy of an RBI off the bat of freshman Chase Pinder.
Junior lefty Matthew Crownover earned his third win of the season, giving up only two hits and one run in 7.0 innings pitched. That one run came on a solo shot from Jake Armstrong in Crownover's final inning. The Wolfpack cut into the Tiger lead more in the eighth on a three-run home run from Preston Palmeiro off of Clemson freshman reliever Paul Campbell, but sophomore Drew Moyer came in and shut down State in the ninth to earn his second save of the year.
"We played good defense all day long," Head Coach Jack Leggett said. "We just were opportunistic today. We had six or seven hits, got our runs when we needed to, ran the bases really well, took advantage of some balls in the dirt, got some good reads. It just shows you that in this conference that every run counts and every opportunity that you've got during the course of a nine inning ballgame is going to come back to help you or haunt you before its all over."
The Tigers did not fare as well in the second game of the series, falling 8-3 in a game dominated by long balls from the bats of the Wolfpack. State shelled Clemson starter Zack Erwin (1-2) early, scoring four of their eight runs in the first innings on two home runs, marking the first runs Clemson had allowed in the first inning in 2015. The Wolfpack scored three more runs in the second inning off of Clemson reliever Clate Schmidt.
Two of those three runs came from Logan Ratledge's second homer of the game on Schmidt's very first pitch.
Clemson scored two runs on sophomore Weston Wilson's team-leading fourth home run of the season in the fourth inning, and their third and final run came in the fifth inning with an RBI from sophomore Chris Okey.
The Tigers were threatening in the third after a walk to redshirt freshman Reed Rohlman and a single from junior Tyler Krieger, but an incredibly poor double play call during Duggar's ensuing at-bat effectively ended the inning. Duggar popped up a foul ball down the third base line, and the State third baseman clearly dropped the ball, but the umpires called it a catch regardless, and State then tagged Rohlman out at third. Head Coach Jack Leggett argued for quite a while, and Assistant Coach Stephen Faris was ejected for debating the bad call. While it appeared that the Tigers might refuse to come out and continue playing as a response to the call, they finally emerged of the dugout but were ultimately unable to avenge the call.
In the third game, the Tiger pitching struggled yet again, allowing 11 runs in the first three innings en route to a 14-6 loss. Clemson got off to a good start, scoring one run in the first on a balk, but it all went downhill from there. Clemson starter Brody Koerner (2-2) allowed two runs in the bottom of the first and got two outs in the second, but then the Wolfpack exploded for a six-run rally before the third out could be recorded. Six Tiger pitchers came into the game after Koerner, and it felt like no one ever really settled in and got comfortable on the mound.
The Tigers offense was highlighted by a long ball from redshirt freshman Reed Rohlman in the fourth inning, his second of the year. Then, in the ninth, after Leggett had replaced the better part of the lineup with backups, the hits started coming. Freshman Robert Jolly had an RBI in the ninth, and redshirt freshman Glenn Batson had a bases-clearing double, his first career hit, to round out the scoring. It was a nice rally for the guys who have not seen much playing time this season, but it fell short of the 12-run deficit the Tigers faced going into the ninth.
The baseball team returns to action this Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. against Michigan State in their second game of the season at Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C.