After it became evident early on that starting pitcher Jacob Hennessey didn't have it today, Clemson needed someone to come in and give them some quality innings in relief. Davis Sharpe did that, and then some.
After coming in with one out in the third inning and the Tigers clinging to a one run lead, Sharpe imposed his will on Illini batters while going the rest of the way. The freshman hurler allowed only 3 hits and just 1 unearned run, while striking out 4 and walking 1.
It's been mentioned many times here over the last month that with each passing week, Sharpe seemed to ĺook a little more fatigued. After not being used in the ACC Tournament last week, it looks as if the young pitcher benefited greatly from the two week break, as he was back in early season form.
Clemson got the bats going early as Logan Davidson lined a one out double off the wall in the first, and would come around to score on a two out single by Kyle Wilkie that gave Clemson a 1-0 lead. The Illini wasted no time in answering, as they tied it up in the bottom half of the inning with a couple of hits off Hennessy. They'd take a 2-1 lead in the second after Hennessey hit the leadoff batter and surrendered two more base hits.
Michael Green then led off the third with a solo homerun that tied it up and then Grayson Byrd hit a 2 run shot to give Clemson a 4-2 lead. It was Byrd's team leading 16th homerun of the season.
Hennessey then allowed a walk and two singles that let Illinois cut it to 4-3, and that would end his day with just one out in the third. Clinging to a one run lead in a must win game, Monte Lee decided he was taking no chances and called on Sharpe, a move that paid off in a big way.
Sharpe ran into trouble just once in the sixth, allowing two singles and a walk that loaded the bases for Illinois, but would get a double play ball to get out of the jam. Illinois never threatened again.
Clemson added three runs in the seventh and one more in the eighth to take an 8-3 lead. Illinois added an unearned run in the ninth for the 8-4 final.
Grayson Byrd, fresh off of being named an All American, had himself a day, going 3-5 with 3 RBI and two runs scored. Michael Green went 2-5 with an RBI and scored 3 times, and Logan Davidson finished 1-2, walked twice and scored 3 runs.
Clemson now awaits the winner of tonight's game between Ole Miss and Jacksonville State. That game will be played tomorrow at 7pm, with Illinois playing the loser at 1pm in an elimination game.