When South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook decided to pitch to Clemson slugger Seth Beer instead of intentionally walking him with two outs and up a run in the top of the ninth inning last Sunday, Gamecock fans wondered why.
The Clemson dugout didn’t. What’s the reason? Chase Pinder.
In three separate occasions this year, once against Western Carolina and twice against the Gamecocks, teams have intentionally walked to get to Pinder, who each time made them pay with an RBI single or double to score a crucial run. In all three occasions, the Tigers rallied to win those games.
The Tigers’ centerfielder heads into Game 1 of the weekend series with Notre Dame today (6:30 p.m.) second on the team with a .348 average and is second to Beer in runs drive in with 12.
As more and more teams try to pitch around Beer, Pinder and his teammates are stepping up and making big plays, causing Holbrook and other coaches to think twice before walking Beer.
Beer made Holbrook pay in Game 3 of the South Carolina series when he took Josh Reagan’s hanging curveball on a full count out of Founders Park to tie the game, eventually sending it into extra innings.
However, in the top of the 11th inning, Holbrook intentionally walked Beer, which a wild pitch on the attempt allowed the eventual winning run to score from third. But after issuing Beer the free pass, Pinder stepped up and delivered an RBI hit, scoring K.J. Bryant, who was pinch-running for Beer, for an insurance run in Clemson’s 5-3 victory.
“I think it is a great thing,” Beer said about his teammates protecting him at the plate. “I will tell you one through nine, I will tell you every day of the week I feel like anyone can step up big for our team in any situation.
“I just think they are doing their job just like I think I’m doing mine. If I need to get on base, I will get on base. They’re doing the same.”
With guys like Pinder and Reed Rohlman, who leads the team with a .357 average, coming through and turning out hits, opposing coaches are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Either way, the ninth-ranked Tigers are making them pay.
Beer has come on the last three games by producing a home run in each. His three homers have brought in seven runs and he now leads the Tigers with 13 RBIs. In Wednesday’s 9-2 win over Michigan State, he took an inside fastball on another full count in the top of the fifth inning and rocketed it into right field for a grand slam.
“It is just him and his confidence right now in what he does at the plate in those big moments,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “He doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to come up there with a number of guys on base and when he does, he sure does do some damage.
“I’m proud of him and I’m proud of our guys that were hitting in front of him, having good at-bats to give him a chance to throw together a big inning.”
Beer feels the Tigers are just beginning to find their rhythm at the plate and that is playing into their success right now.
“I feel like our approach has gotten better as the season as gone on, and I feel like that plays into it,” the sophomore said. “I don’t think that so much that is protecting me as much as it they are doing what it takes to help our team win.”
And like Lee says, “It is always good when guys that are hitting ahead of Seth are getting on base so they have to pitch to him.”