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Lee’s leap of faith in Cromwell pays off against Gamecocks

GREENVILLE — When Bradley LeCroy saw Patrick Cromwell play for the first time on a recruiting trip to California last summer, he called head coach Monte Lee up and asked him if he could offer him even though the Clemson head coach had not seen him play. Lee told Bradley to go ahead, and Cromwell accepted.

Lee’s faith in LeCroy’s evaluation and in Cromwell paid off on Saturday when the junior college transfer took a 2-1 offering from South Carolina’s Reed Scott over the wall in right field in the top of the ninth inning. The home run was part of a three-run inning in the 12th-ranked Tigers’ 8-7 come-from-behind win over rival and No. 4 South Carolina on Saturday at Greenville’s Fluor Field.

“That shows how much faith Coach Lee has in his coaching staff,” Cromwell said afterwards. “Coach LeCroy has been around for a while. He saw something he liked in me. I did think in the back of my head that these guys did take a leap of faith in me. Coach Lee had not seen me and Coach LeCroy had seen me once. He saw me take batting practice.

“It was no pressure I would say, but I kind of knew that these guys were putting their faith in me to be the guy at third base, help the team out and drive some runs in. I’m going to do the best I can so I don’t make them regret that.”

There is no regret from Lee or LeCroy. Cromwell has already hit two home runs this season and his solo shot on Saturday was as big as it gets, especially when it came against the hated Gamecocks to key a three-run inning that lifted the Tigers to victory.

Cromwell’s home run was especially challenging after Carolina brought Scott in to pitch in the middle of the at-bat for Tyler Johnson, who was behind 2-0 in the count to the Clemson junior.

“It was weird. There have not been too many times when I have been in the middle of an at-bat and they brought in a new pitcher, especially when there is a little bit of a velocity change,” Cromwell said. “I just wanted to see just one pitch so I could see the arm angle and stuff like that.

“Then I saw the next pitch well. I knew I put a good swing on it. I got a good piece of the barrel and got a little under it. Then I kept checking as I was running, looking up at the right fielder. When I saw him stop running, I was like ‘Wow!’ My feet were pretty light running around the bases. When I rounded to second I saw all of my boys at home plate. It was an incredible feeling. I was just stoked that I did that for the team.”

Cromwell met his team at home plate where he was given the hammer by strength and conditioning coach Rick Franzblau.

“There were times early in the game where I did not clutch up with runners in scoring position and it was a little frustrating,” Cromwell said. “I could have turned the tide for the game earlier, but I’m happy I got that one out and got things rolling for us in that inning as we scored a couple of more runs.”

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