It wasn't the prettiest victory, but a win was a win for the Clemson baseball team on Tuesday night, as second baseman Chase Pinder was hit by a pitch with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and a full count to score centerfielder Tyler Slaton in a 5-4 walkoff win over the Furman Paladins. With the victory, Clemson improves to 13-12 on the season, and Furman falls to 12-15.
Furman scored one unearned run off of Tiger starter Clate Schmidt in the top of the fourth after a throwing error from shortshop Eli White, but the Tigers reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the inning courtesy of a three-run homer off the bat of catcher Chris Okey. The long ball was Okey's fourth of the year, tying third baseman Weston Wilson for the team high. The three RBIs also brought Okey's total to 14 in Clemson's past eight games, and he leads the team with 25 on the year.
The Paladins came storming back in the seventh inning and took advantage of multiple Tiger pitchers, scoring three runs before righthander Taylor Vetzel (1-0) came into the game and pitched 2.2 scoreless innings. Vetzel allowed only two hits with no walks and four strikeouts in his first win as a Tiger. Not to mention that Vetzel entered the game in the middle of an at-bat with a full count after Drew Moyer suffered an injury.
"I cannot say I've come in a more tough situation than that one," Vetzel said. "Fact of the matter of it is Drew [Moyer] got hurt, and I hadn't touched a ball in the bullpen. They had just got me up to start tossing, but I hadn't thrown any off the mound. I came in, and when I got done warming up, actually, [Chris] Okey came up to the mound, and he's like ‘by the way, it's a 3-2 count, so here we go.' I just went from there and just threw a fastball and it all worked out for me."
The Tigers had scored another run in the fifth off an RBI from designated hitter Tyler Krieger, but after the seventh inning rally from Furman, the game remained tied until the ninth inning. In the ninth, rally caps abounded in the Clemson dugout, as a walk to Slaton to lead off the inning was followed by a single from rightfielder Steven Duggar that advanced Slaton to third. The Paladins then intentionally walked Krieger, who had gone 4-for-4 on the night. Two quick outs followed in the form of a pop-up to shallow center from leftfielder Reed Rohlman and a strikeout by Okey, bringing up Pinder. After battling his way to a full count, Pinder was hit by a pitch to bring Slaton home, and the Tigers came out victorious.
"I was looking for something to hit, definitely," Pinder said. "I had a feeling he was coming with a two-seam again, since he got me before, but it started inside this time, and I knew it was going to run right into me; so I was hit by a pitch and somehow got an RBI out of it. I feel like we're onto something right here. I feel like we have a spark with the team and if we can build off this, it would be great."
The Tigers remain at home for the rest of the week and look to build off their momentum from their past two wins, facing Presbyterian College on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. followed by a weekend series against the North Carolina Tar Heels.