Clemson broke out the brooms in their home series with Stony Brook over the weekend, going a perfect 3-0 and giving up a grand total of 1 run in 3 games. The Tigers were dominant on the mound, mowing down Seawolves at every turn, with both their starters and bullpen.
As dominant as Clemson was on the mound, their offense was less than stellar. Some may even call it anemic. Stranding base runners and hitting into untimely double plays was the theme in the series. The Tigers figured out how to push enough runs across the plate to win, but we’re going to need to figure out how to hit the ball and run the bases in a hurry with a series against the U of SC looming next weekend. You can only ask the pitching staff to be perfect for so long before they start breaking down.
Clemson 2 - Stony Brook 0
If there were any lingering questions about Sam Weatherly’s spot in the rotation, they were put to rest with his 6 inning, 14 strike out, 1 walk, 2 hit, 0 run performance on Friday night. The Tigers lefty was finding the zone with all of his pitches, showing off a fastball with late movement, a nasty breaking ball, and a devastating change up that had the Stony Brook hitters swinging through pitches that hadn’t come close to the plate yet.
This was Stony Brook’s lead off the game hitter, and man, he has no idea how fast that pitch is coming or where it’s going to end up. That’s a close your eyes, swing, and walk back to the dugout pitch.
Weatherly gave the Tigers a dominant 6 innings and then handed the ball off to the Clemson bullpen to finish things up.
Carter Raffield was first out of the pen. He faced 8 batters, struck out 2, walked 1 and gave up 2 hits in 1.1 innings of work. The baton was then passed to Geoffery Gilbert, who faced 5 batters, striking out 2, walking 1 and allowing a hit in an inning of work. Finally, Carson Spiers was called in to slam the door and he did just that. He faced 3 batters, struck out 1 and didn’t allow a hit to close the game and pick up his third save of the season.
Weatherly walked away with the win, putting the Tiger lefty at 1-0 on the year.
Clemson picked up a run in the 1st and 2nd inning and then took the rest of the game off. Mac Starbuck was hit by a pitch (yet again, his third HBP of the season) to lead off the game, Kier Meredith worked the count to 3-1 and then picked up an infield single on a high chopper, moving Starbuck over and putting 2 on base for the Tigers to start the game. Elijah Henderson worked the count on the Stony Brook pitcher as well and then smoked a 3-1 line drive to right field to load the bases.
Clemson had the bases loaded with no outs, and it looked like the offensive explosion everyone has been waiting for had the fuse lit. Then, Adam Henderson stepped to the plate and drilled a one hopper directly at the 3rd baseman playing down the line, who promptly tagged 3rd and then punched Henderson out at 1st. Mac Starbuck scored, but Stony Brook would gladly trade a run for 2 outs in that situation. Henderson easily stole 3rd with Davis Sharpe at the plate, but Sharpe ended the ending with a soft blooper to the second baseman to end the inning.
That was the story of the game for Clemson. Just when things looked like they might break open, they couldn’t find a timely hit.
In the second inning, Dylan Brewer picked up his first collegiate hit on a blooper that died in the wind in front of the center fielder. He then stole second and was subsequently driven in by Sam Hall on a blast to straight away center that would have (in my humble opinion) cleared the fence if not for the wind blowing in at Doug Kingsmore, but an RBI triple isn’t bad I suppose. Of course, the Tigers couldn’t cash in Hall’s triple with another run as Mac Starbuck stuck out swinging to end the inning.
annnnnnd.....that was it for the Clemson bats.
Full credit to the Stony Brook pitchers and fielders for limiting Clemson the rest of the game, but the Tigers simply couldn’t figure out how to get on base, and on the rare occasion that someone did reach, they didn’t get very far.
Clemson ended the game with 7 hits, 4 of which came in the first 2 innings, and walked twice. Meredith and Henderson provided 4 of the hits and 1 of the walks. The middle of the order provided nothing of note, and the bottom of the order didn’t fair much better outside of two hits in the second. The Tigers stranded 6 runners on the day, and despite being aggressive on the base paths, couldn’t generate any runs out of their small ball game.
A win is a win, but the offense has to get it figured out.
Davis Sharpe started the game for the Clemson on Saturday, and turned in 6 shutout innings, striking out 6, walking none, and working around 5 Stony Brook hits to keep the goose egg on the scoreboard. It wasn’t the dominant performance that Weatherly provided on Friday night, but I can’t find much fault in 6 scoreless innings of work on a Saturday afternoon.
Sharpe gave way to Keyshawn Askew in the 7th, and it wasn’t a great performance from the 6’4 left hander. He faced 4 batters, struck out 1, walked 1, and gave up a hit. Askew did a nice job of battling back after allowing the first two hitters to reach base, but was pulled in favor of Sheldon Reed, who finished off the inning with a crucial 3-2 strike out.
Reed would start the 8th and pick up another strike out before being forced out of the game with an arm injury. Nick Hoffmann, a 6’2, 215 pound freshman out of Ohio didn’t disappoint, retiring the 3 batters he faced in order, in a pressure situation. You’ve got to like that out of the young reliever.
Finally, Nick Clayton came in to seal the deal for the Tigers. Facing 8 batters, striking out 3 and giving up 2 hits to record his first win of the season (1-0).
This was a pieced together gem by the pitching staff who managed to strand 10 Stony Brook runners without giving up a run over 10 innings. When the Tigers needed a crucial pitch, the staff obliged, even managing to work around 3 errors for the shutout.
*The Bad News
Monte Lee asked everyone to say a prayer for Sheldon Reed who has battled his entire career to get to the point where he could be a factor in the Clemson bullpen. All you can do is hope it’s not as bad as it sounds for Reed. Elbow injuries are obviously a huge concern and Clemson has already lost Jacob Hennessy to a torn elbow ligament this year. We should know more later on in the week.
What can you say about 10 innings of baseball that yields a single run?
It wasn’t pretty, but it was good enough to get the job done I suppose. Over the course of 30 at bats, the Tigers managed 4 hits. That’s not ideal. Elijah Henderson continues to be the bright spot for the otherwise moribund offense, collecting 2 hits, 2 walks, and the game winning RBI in the 10th. Outside of Henderson, Mac Starbuck managed to reach 1st base once in 5 attempts, but did manage to score the game winning run on his only venture to the base paths. Sam Hall contributed the other hit.
One somewhat bright spot, and I’m stretching hard for this, was Clemson’s patience at the plate. They took 6 walks, and did a decent job of working the count against Stony Brook starter Sam Turcotte. Unfortunately, when they weren’t walking against Turcotte, they were striking out, as Turcotte recorded 7 strikeouts in 6 innings of work.
Despite the offensive futility, Clemson stuck it out and broke through in the 10th. Mac Starbuck slapped a base hit between first and second with one out. Kier Meredith moved him over on a controversial (and bad in my opinion) balk call (but on the other hand, the pitch was a ball anyway and would have resulted in a walk), and Henderson finally paid it off for the Tigers with a liner to right center, bringing home Starbuck and winning the game for Clemson.
You can squeak by a 1 win Stony Brook with this sort of offense, but the yard birds are an entirely different animal. Let’s hope the bats get warm this weekend.
Clemson 3 - Stony Brook 1
The Clemson staff turned in their third dominating performance of the series to finish things off on Sunday. Spencer Strider took the mound for his second start of the season, and didn’t disappoint in limited action. He’s obviously on a strict 50 pitch count after coming back from Tommy John surgery, but was effective, facing 11 batters, striking out 5 and scattering 3 hits over 2.2 innings. I’m sure Strider would have preferred to miss a few more bats, but it’s early in his comeback and he’s still working through some things and finding confidence in his arm. I expect Clemson to work him back slowly, especially considering all the other injuries to the staff so far this year.
Mat Clark took over from Strider with 2 outs in the 3rd and runners on 1st and 2nd. The Stony Brook hitter worked the count full, but Clark delivered a nice 3-2 pitch to strike him out and end the threat in the 3rd.
Clark cruised until the 7th inning before putting the lead off man on first with a hit, and then running into some bad luck, with the subsequent hitter reaching on an error when Chad Fairey failed to collect what looked like a routine throw from the pitcher on a bunt attempt. The error also advanced the runner to third. He was later driven in after tagging up and making it to home on a foul ball catch.
Clemson decided to take no chances with a runner on 2nd and two outs, and brought in Spiers to finish up the inning, and he did just that, striking out the Stony Brook pinch hitter and ending the threat.
Spiers would go on pitch 2 more scoreless innings, facing 8 batters, striking out 3, walking one, and not allowing a hit. It’s nice to have a hammer at the back end of the bullpens to take the excitement out of the game. Spiers ends up with the win in this one, his first on the season.
Another dreadful performance from Clemson at the plate. They only managed to scratch out 3 hits in this one, but did take another 5 free passes. The Tigers might not be good at hitting the ball, but they’re not bad at watching it go by for ball 4...so that’s something I guess.
Clemson’s first run came in the Dylan Brewer reached on a 2 out single to center, than stole second, advanced to 3rd on a bad pick off attempt by the pitcher, and was finally balked home (another baaaad call by the ump, but I’ll take it) to end the comedy of errors and open the scoring.
It finally happened in the 8th, Clemson found a way to score 2 runs in a single inning. It took some significant help from Stony Brook to achieve this wondrous feat, but beggers can’t be choosers at this point.
After Clemson’s first two batters failed to reach, Meredith took one for the team, and reached on a HBP. Davis Sharpe followed that up with a walk. Meredith moved over to third on a wild pitch and then Adam Hackenberg took another one for the team and walked to first on the second HBP of the inning. Bryar Hawkins stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter for Chad Fairey and took a bases loaded walk off the clearly rattled Seawolves pitcher to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead. Stony Brook went to the pen to try and limit the damage, but Bryce Teodosio brought in an insurance run after legging out a infield hit on a slow roller to the short stop.
It wasn’t pretty, but ugly runs still count.
It was a dominant series for the Clemson pitching staff. Stony Brook isn’t great, but not giving up a single earned run is still impressive.
As impressive as the pitching staff was, the offense was equally ugly. The bats need to come alive, and they need to come alive soon, with the dirt peckers on deck this weekend.