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Crooked numbers finally come for Clemson

Good baseball teams don’t stop scoring runs. They keep stringing together good at-bat after good at-bat. They stack three singles together, advance extra bases when the pitcher and/or catcher provide opportunities, and don’t miss mistake pitches in critical moments.

Clemson’s biggest weakness during its opening series against Wright State wasn’t a lack of offense. After all, the Tigers scored in nine separate innings against the Raiders—the same number as the opposition.

The difference was that the Raiders kept scoring within innings, while the Tigers stopped at one run. Only twice did Clemson put a so-called “crooked number” on the scoreboard, while Wright State did it four times.

That lack of rally-extending at-bats was a problem for the Tigers again on Wednesday night against Western Carolina. For the first six innings, Monte Lee watched his offense park people on the bases, only to see the inning end with a “1” or a goose egg in the scoring column.

The Tigers saw two runners get picked off of first base in the first inning. They had two on with nobody out before a double play in the second. They had two on with one out before a double play in the fourth. They had two on with one out before Reed Rohlman and Seth Beer both hit into outs. They had a runner on third with one out before consecutive strikeouts ended the sixth inning.

After a weekend in which potentially big innings fizzled over and over again with 28 separate baserunners stranded over 27 innings, Clemson saw a similar story playing out in front of a midweek crowd at Doug Kingsmore Stadium for the first two-thirds of Wednesday’s game.

Then the seventh inning happened.

It started out like so many others. Jordan Greene drew a pinch-hit walk. Robert Jolly singled on a 3-2 pitch. K.J. Bryant walked to load the bases, bringing Rohlman and Beer to the plate.

Strikeout. Strikeout. Same song, different verse.

But something different happened for Clemson this time. It got a break. Chase Pinder’s bloop single to centerfield fell in between fielders in pursuit, plating a pair of runs. Clemson had its crooked number, but it wasn’t done.

Weston Jackson mashed a 3-1 pitch out of the stadium to left field, bouncing it off the back of the Chapman Grandstands for a three-run homer that helped the Tigers turn a 5-1 deficit into a 6-5 lead.

With a five-run inning in the rear view mirror, the Tigers did the same thing again in the next frame. Walk, single, sacrifice, walk, two-run double, hit-by-pitch, strikeout (a minor detour), bases-clearing double. All of a sudden, it was another five-run output that put the Catamounts on life support and gave Clemson its final 11-6 margin of victory.

After scoring multiple runs in just two of its first 33 innings of action, the Tigers scored ten runs in its final two at-bats of Wednesday’s game. Clemson sent 19 batters to the plate in those innings, picked up eight hits—including three that went for extra bases—and drew four walks and a hit-by-pitch.

It was only a matter of time before Clemson did this. There’s too much talent in the field not to have rallies every now and then. Plus, injuries and illnesses cost the Tigers much of their collective pop in the opening three-game set.

Still, with every passing inning on Wednesday, a pattern began to emerge. Trends began to set in with each missed opportunity—at least, until they didn’t.

Now Clemson has a new trend. It has scored five runs in consecutive innings. Wonder how long this new trend will last once Elon comes calling on Friday?

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