Clemson played a home and home series with Gardner Webb over the weekend, with each team holding serve on their home field. These were two games this Tiger team really needed to win, seeing as the Bulldogs had an RPI of 167 coming into the weekend. The margin for error continues to shrink for this team, especially in these non conference games against lesser competition.
The Tigers won the first game 10-2 Saturday afternoon in Clemson. Davis Sharpe had his best outing in weeks, going 5.2 innings and allowing 2 runs on 3 hits, while striking out 6 and walking 2. He wasn't the dominant Sharpe we became accustomed to seeing throughout the first half of the season, but still much better than his past few starts, despite hitting his 11th batter of the season. This team will need Sharpe to go out and give them quality starts down the stretch if they are to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Kyle Wilkie got the Tiger offense going early with a 2 run shot off the left field foul pole in the 1st, his third of the season. Then in the 5th, Clemson would push 7 runs across, highlighted by Logan Davidson's 3 run homerun. It was Davidson's 40th long ball as a Tiger and his 13th of the season, and gave the Tigers a 9-2 lead.
Jackson Lindley, Keyshawn Askew, and Luke Sommerfield combined to throw 3.1 scoreless innings in relief to finish off the Running Bulldogs.
Game 2 was played in Shelby NC at Keeter Stadium, home of the American Legion World Series, with Gardner Webb holding on for a 9-7 win. Every Bulldog starter had at least one hit as Gardner Webb got its first ever win over Clemson in 12 games.
The Tigers got on the board early again, getting a run in the 1st. The Bulldogs then got it going against starter Jacob Hennessy, chasing him in the 3rd. The junior lefty could only get through 2.2 innings, allowing 6 runs on 5 hits. Just 3 of those were earned however, as a Jordan Greene fielding error on what should have been the third out, led to the final 3 runs of the inning.
Travis Marr came on to relieve Hennessy in the 3rd, but couldn't follow up on his fantastic outing last Sunday vs Ga Tech. Marr allowed 3 runs on 6 hits in just an 1.2 IP.
Owen Griffith then came on to stop the bleeding, going the next 2.2 innings and not allowing a run, while striking out 4 of the 8 batters he faced. He allowed just one hit, but more importantly had no walks, as the free passes have been problematic for him in recent appearances.
The Tigers would plate a single run in the 5th, 6th, and 8th innings, before getting 3 more in the ninth for the 9-7 final.
Gardner Webb had 3 spectacular defensive plays in the 8th to keep the Tigers from scoring more than once in the inning. Kyle Wilkie hit a long fly ball to lead the inning off but a leaping catch against the wall by the CF kept him off the base paths. After a Bryar Hawkins single and a Jordan Greene double, the Bulldogs 2B made an impressive catch on a hard hit line drive by Michael Green to record the second out. Justin Hawkins then singled to left and the LF made a perfect throw home to gun down Jordan Greene at the plate to end the threat and limit the Tigers to just the lone run in the inning. It's easy to say in hindsight, but one has to wonder why you'd send Greene there with two outs and down 5 runs.
With the split, Clemson now sits at 28-19 on the season and drops to 40th in RPI. Gardner Webb now moves to 20-23.
The Tigers now get set for another week in which they'll play two midweek games. Presbyterian visits Clemson on Tuesday and the Citadel will visit on Wednesday, with both games scheduled to start at 6pm, and available on WatchESPN.
With Presbyterian sitting at #165 in RPI and the Citadel at #272, the Tigers absolutely need to take care of business in these two games in order to avoid seeing their RPI take a big hit.