Weston Jackson nailed a 3-1 pitch from Western Carolina pitcher Brendan Nail over the wall in left center field to give Clemson a one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh inning, lifting the Tigers to an 11-5 victory over Western Carolina on Wednesday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
Jackson said after the game that some Catamount fans were giving him a hard time during the game so it was nice to hit the home run in their direction.
“(Tuesday’s) practice we worked on being on time with the fastball, and going back to my at-bat before that I had a 3-1 count and I had check swing,” Jackson said. “That is a big no-no to Coach (Monte) Lee so at that bat I had a 3-1 and I said I am not going to get beat on this fastball this time. So it was up in the zone and I was able to do some damage with it.”
The home run came with two outs, following a Chase Pinder two-out single to centerfield that scored two runs.
The Tigers entered the bottom of the seventh trailing the Catamounts 5-1 following a two-run top of the inning for Western. However, Jordan Greene walked, Robert Jolly singled to right center and K.J. Bryant walked to load the bases with no outs.
After back-to-back strikeouts from Reed Rohlman and Seth Beer, Pinder hit a bloop single to centerfield and then Jackson hit his bomb to left field to give the Tigers a 6-5 lead.
“It was not pretty, but one thing is for sure, it was good to see are guys pick up some two out hits with runners in scoring position,” Lee said.
Before Jackson’s home run things did not look well for Clemson. Western had grabbed a 5-1 lead through six and a half innings thanks to an RBI double from Bryson Bowman, two doubles from Matthew Koehler and two RBIs from Matt Smith. Caleb Robinson and Nobu Suzuki also drove in runs, while Brett Pope had three hits.
Clemson relief pitcher Jacob Hennessy came in for starter Tyler Jackson to keep the Tigers close as he gave up two runs off five hits in four innings of work. The two runs came in the top of the seventh. He struck out four and walked just one batter in his four innings.
Brooks Crawford recorded the win for the Tigers as he came in for Hennessey with two outs in the seventh. Nail suffered the loss for Western.
Clemson extend its lead in the bottom of the eighth inning as Pinder drove in two more runs with a one-out double down the right field line to make the score 8-5. Two batters later Grayson Byrd doubled to right center field to score three more runs for the Tigers’ 11-5 win.
Pinder finished the day 4-for-4 with 4 RBIs and scored twice. Byrd had two hits and drove in three runs.
For most of the afternoon, it looked like the start of the 2017 baseball was not going too well for the Clemson Tigers as they were in jeopardy of losing their third game in four tries to open the season. A loss would have marked the program’s worst start to a season since 1983, when those Tigers started that year 1-5.
“Nothing was being said,” Pinder said. “People were trying to get us going and the offense was trying to get going. I swear I was on third like three or four times before, so I knew we were about to break. It takes one hit like (Jackson’s) home run or just someone walking … I felt like eventually we were going to get to him.
“We never looked at it like panic or anything like that so honestly, I just refereed back to last year. We came back so many times, it is just an every day thing.”
For a second straight game, runs were at a premium for Clemson early on. The Tigers got their first run when Rohlman singled up the middle in the bottom of the third inning to score Jolly from second base with a two-out hit.
Clemson will host Elon on Friday at 4 p.m.