What was expected to be a pitcher’s duel between Clemson ace Charlie Barnes and Vanderbilt ace Kyle Wright on Saturday turned out to be a lopsided affair.
Barnes matched Wright with three scoreless frames to begin the game, but unraveled in the middle innings of Vanderbilt’s 9-4 win over Clemson in Game 4 of the Clemson Regional at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
“Give Vandy a lot of credit, especially with Kyle Wright,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “He made it extremely difficult for us. He really pounded the strike zone.”
Barnes, who pitched 5 2/3 innings, ended up allowing seven earned runs on 13 hits with four strikeouts and a walk. Wright — the projected No. 1 pick in this year’s Major League Baseball draft — threw seven strong innings, giving up just three runs on seven hits while striking out nine and walking one.
Six Vanderbilt players had at least two hits apiece, while five Commodores recorded at least one RBI. Leadoff hitter Will Toffey went 3-for-6 with a double, two RBI and a run scored. Jeren Kendall had three hits in five at-bats with two doubles and three RBI.
“The difference in the game was what they did with two-outs,” Lee said. “They did a great job getting those big hits in the ballgame and that was the big difference in this game.”
Andrew Cox paced Clemson’s offense with a double, two RBI and a run scored.
Clemson (40-20) will face UNC Greensboro on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the elimination game. Vanderbilt will play the winner of that contest tomorrow at 7 p.m. The Commodores will have two tries to earn a win and win the regional.
“The bottom line is we have to find away to win the game,” Lee said. “Our season is on the line and we have to find a way to win the game. That is the bottom line. We have to do everything we can tomorrow to win that game and keep our season alive.”
Both teams were scoreless through the first three innings before Vanderbilt jumped ahead with three runs on four hits in the fourth.
After Reed Hayes led off the frame with a double and Ethan Paul followed with a single, Jason Delay doubled down the right-field line to drive in Hayes. Paul, who advanced to third on the two-base hit, came home on a sacrifice fly by Harrison Ray. Two batters later, Toffey lined a one-out double to left-center field to score Delay and give the Commodores a 3-0 lead.
Vanderbilt (35-22-1) broke the game open in the sixth inning, scoring four more runs on four hits, all of which came with two outs. An RBI single by Toffey, an RBI double by Ro Coleman and a two-RBI double by Kendall extended the Commordoes’ advantage to 7-0.
Clemson answered with three runs in the bottom of the sixth. A leadoff single by Reed Rohlman and one-out walk by Chase Pinder preceded a two-out, two-RBI double by Cox. An ensuing RBI single by Jordan Greene plated Cox, who had moved to third base on a wild pitch, and cut the Tigers’ deficit to 7-3.
The Commodores and Tigers traded runs in the eighth. After Kendall doubled home Coleman for Vanderbilt’s run, Seth Beer sent the game’s only home run over the right-field fence to make the score 8-4. Clemson threatened to close the gap further, but Coleman made a leaping grab in deep left field to rob Chris Williams of what would have been an extra-base, run-scoring hit.
Vanderbilt added another insurance run in the ninth on Delay’s single to center that brought home Hayes and provided the final margin.
A recurring theme for Clemson in the regional thus far has been missed opportunities. After going 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position against UNC Greenboro on Friday, Clemson went 2-for-11 versus Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt was 8-for-19 (.421) with runners in scoring position against Clemson.
The Tigers finished the game with nine hits and no errors, while the Commodores had 16 hits and no errors as well.