It always feels great to beat South Carolina in anything, but it was especially great to see the baseball Tigers win their annual series against the Gamecocks for the second consecutive year after not winning a series against the Gamecocks since 2010. Expectations were low for the Tigers going into Monte Lee's first year, but I think they have to change given Clemson's excellent start to the season. After losing the opening game in Columbia by a score of 8-1 it looked like it was going to be a long weekend for the Tigers. However, the Tigers bounced back nicely winning 5-0 over the Gamecocks in Greenville on Saturday and taking the rubber match by a score of 4-1 on Sunday in Clemson.
The Tigers struggled with the bat and on the field by only scoring one run in Columbia on Friday while committing three errors in the field, allowing the Gamecocks to take the series opener by a bit of an embarrassing score. Clarke Schmidt, the younger brother of Clemson starter Clate Schmidt, held the Tigers scoreless through eight innings. Saturday was a different story however. Clate Schmidt and Pat Krall combined to limit the Gamecocks to two hits throughout the game while striking out ten. To lead the scoring for the Tigers on Saturday, Chase Pinder continued his hot start to the season by hitting his fourth homer of the season while Chris Okey had three RBI's on the day.
Coach Lee elected to start redshirt freshman Alex Eubanks on Sunday over Jake Higginbotham, who started the first two Sundays of the season for the Tigers, after struggling in his last start. Eubanks pitched an absolute gem for the Tigers on Sunday, pitching 7.2 innings allowing only one run while striking eight Gamecock batters. Closer Alex Bostic pitched the last four outs for the Tigers and picked up his first save of the season.
The new coaching staff has been very impressive to start the season and it looks like Coach Lee is getting the most out of his players. It's also refreshing to see new pitching coach Andrew See have some early success with this young and inexperienced pitching staff. Eubanks' performance on Sunday stood out the most to me and I believe he should be the Sunday starter going forward. I still think Jake Higginbotham has a chance to be a great one for the Tigers going forward but it will be beneficial to his development if Eubanks can continue to hold down the Sunday role. Higginbotham can develop at his own pace without much pressure and still get some innings with weekday starts and bullpen appearances. The Tigers host Winthrop at 4 p.m. on Wednesday before heading out for a weekend series in Winston-Salem for an ACC opening series against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.