South Carolina (8-0) vs Clemson (4-4)
Friday @ Clemson -
6:00pm UPDATE 7:30pm (ACCNX)
Saturday @ Flour Field - 2:00pm (SECN+, but Flour’s early 2000’s quality cameras)
Sunday @ U of SC - 1:00pm (SECN+)
Radio: Clemson Athletic Network, ClemsonTigers.com
Clemson finds itself in a tailspin. The Tigers were swept at home by UCF. Much has been said about UCF celebrating the sweep by running down the Hill in Death Valley. I could probably write a whole article on it, but I’ll just keep my thoughts short: if you don’t like it, either don’t let UCF sweep you or lock up the Valley. After all these years of enjoying Clemson football dance to “Sandstorm” and wave white towels after beating South Carolina, and as much joy as the 2017 team throwing up upside down Miami U’s and doing mock turnover chain celebrations while dismantling the best football team Miami has fielded since HD television was invented brought me, it would be hypocritical to say UCF can’t do this. Let’s just beat them next year and celebrate at their sacred Chili’s, or whatever their tradition on campus is.
Clemson followed up that abysmal weekend by falling to USC-Upstate on Tuesday at Flour Field. Clemson is still looking for some solid pitchers to step into roles, and these Gamecocks, much like UCF, have the ability to tee off and make pitchers pay for mistakes.
In addition to the usual bad blood between these two, this one may be spicier. Former Clemson head coach Monte Lee makes his return as an assistant for the Gamecocks. Former Tigers Ricky Williams, Jonathan French, and Dylan Brewer are also in garnet and black now. French hit a clutch homer last season at Founders Park to lead Clemson to a game one victory, and you know he’d love to do the same to his old team. Not to mention, Gamecock fans will probably have some words for Jack Leggett, a long time nemesis of their athletic director, Ray Tanner.
If the Tigers can right some pitching woes, the offense looks solid enough that this could be a fun one. Thursday , Clemson announced its first two starting pitchers, and it’s a different look than we’ve seen. Austin Gordon gets the nod Friday, Tristan Smith (who started Tuesday) takes the mound Saturday, and no pitcher has been announced for Sunday.
Gordon had been Clemson’s Saturday guy, and comes in with a 1-0 record and 6.10 ERA. Gordon gave up 6 runs last week to UCF. Smith is a freshman with no runs allowed, but also just 2.1 innings pitched.
The big story here is no Ryan Ammons. Rumblings have been he may be injured, which is the only possible reason I could think for him to be out. With Clemson being TBA on Sunday instead of usual Sunday starter Jay Dill makes me wonder if there isn’t some hope of Ammons pitching then, but I am not optimistic. It will also be interesting to see if we see another Billy Barlow appearance, even in limited innings.
To win this series, I think Clemson needs to win at home. I don’t feel great about that game without Ammons, but Clemson has to land the first punch. The fans need to be there and be loud. The game is already a 6:oopm first pitch, and there’s rain in the forecast, so it may be an even later start — plenty of time for fans to tailgate and get ready to roll. If we can get long innings from Smith on Saturday I’ll be happy, but we probably will be conservative on the freshman’s pitch count. Lastly, we have no clue what all to expect Sunday.
Regardless, it’s always an exciting time when these two teams get together and I imagine the energy in all three parks will be buzzing. I’m also hoping the baseball team can have some good vibes at Flour on Saturday that carry over to Littlejohn for the big basketball game against Notre Dame.
For more on the this rivalry matchup, check out this video with STS writer Ryan Kantor and MLB prospect expert, Pitcherlist.com writer Chris Clegg: