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Tigers beat Irish to start ACC play

After ending the 2016 regular season with a sweep of Notre Dame, No. 9 Clemson began ACC play this season with a series-opening 4-1 victory over the Irish at Doug Kingsmore Stadium on Friday night.

Clemson starting pitcher Charlie Barnes (1-1) was outstanding again, allowing only one run on four hits over 6.1 innings pitched with seven strikeouts and a pair of walks to earn the win. His ERA on the season now sits at a sparkling 0.69.

Andrew Cox paced the Tigers’ offense with two hits and two RBI. Chris Williams — whose extra-inning home run in the series opener at Notre Dame last season keyed Clemson’s sweep and postseason run — knocked in Clemson’s first run of the game and scored another.

“Great pitching tonight. Charlie Barnes was really, really good again for us,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “Offensively, we had a lot of really good at-bats, drew nine walks, had two hit-by-pitches. Overall, I thought our approaches were really good and I thought we threw the ball very well.”

Clemson grabbed an early 2-0 lead in the fourth inning thanks to consecutive run-scoring hits by Williams and Cox.

Chase Pinder was hit by a pitch from Notre Dame’s Brandon Bielak to lead off the frame before Williams ripped a double down the left-field line to score Pinder. Cox then plated Williams with a blooper to shallow left.

Notre Dame cut its deficit in half in the sixth inning, scoring a run on a wild pitch from Barnes. After Jake Johnson and Kyle Fiala began the inning with base hits, Fiala advanced to second as Johnson was caught stealing third. Fiala later moved to third on a passed ball before scoring on the wild pitch to make the score 2-1.

Clemson answered with a run of its own in the bottom half of the sixth to regain a two-run lead.

Cox and Weston Jackson led off the inning with back-to-back walks before moving to second and third on a sacrifice bunt by Grayson Byrd. After Jackson advanced to third on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Patrick Cromwell, Jackson crossed home plate on a double steal with Cromwell to give the Tigers a 3-1 advantage.

The Tigers added an insurance run in the seventh on an RBI single by Cox, who drove in Seth Beer.

Jacob Hennessy pitched the final 2.2 innings to record his second save of the season. Notre Dame’s Bielak (0-3) suffered the loss, as he yielded three hits three runs and six walks with six strikeouts in 5.0 innings pitched.

“It was good to get win number one in ACC play,” Lee said, “and we need to be ready to go tomorrow.”

Clemson improved to 10-3 (1-0 ACC), while Notre Dame fell to 3-9 (0-1). Clemson has now won nine of its last 10 games.

Game two of the series begins at 4 p.m. tomorrow at Doug Kingsmore.

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