By Trey McCurry.
For the past few months everyone has discussed the impact the new bats would have on the 2011 college baseball season. The common theme was that there would be less homeruns, fewer hits, and lower scoring games. Well someone forgot to tell Chris Epps and the #4 Clemson Tigers.
In the season opener Friday afternoon at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, the Tigers used 16 hits and 10 walks to defeat Eastern Michigan 14-3. On a beautiful afternoon, 6,138 fans watched Clemson win its seventh straight season opener and move to 1-0 on the young season.
After Eastern Michigan went three-up and three-down to start the game, senior outfielder Chris Epps started the Tigers season off with a bang with a homer to left-centerfield. The leadoff homer marked the third time in Head Coach Jack Leggett’s 18 seasons that a Tiger lead off the season with a home run and the first time since Brian Ellis in 1999. Will Lamb followed with a single, while Jeff Schaus and Richie Shaffer both walked to load the bases. Brad Miller drew another walk to plate Lamb and put Clemson up 2-0. John Hinson followed Miller with a sacrifice fly to right field to score Schaus and extend the lead to 3-0. After Phil Pohl was hit-by-pitch to again load the bases, Spencer Kieboom lined a ball to centerfield for another sacrifice fly plating Shaffer for a 4-0 lead. After a Jason Stolz infield single, Epps grounded out to end the inning.
The Eagles responded right back in the top of the second inning. After a walk and a single, Robert Wendzicki hit a three-run homer over the left-center wall to cut the Tiger lead to 4-3. However, Tiger starter Scott Weismann settled down and retired the next three Eagles.
The Tiger went back to work in the bottom of the third. After Miller led off with infield single and Hinson walked, Pohl laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt to advance both runners. Kieboom followed with another sacrifice fly to right field to score Miller as Hinson moved to third on the play. After Hinson scored on a wild pitch, Stolz walked and brought an end to Eagle starter Kendall Lewis’s day. Following a Stolz steal and Epps walk, Lamb singled to left field to score Stolz and extend the Tigers lead to 7-3 after three innings of play.
Clemson was at it again in the bottom of the fourth. After three straight walks to open the inning (Shaffer, Miller, and Hinson), Pohl hit a sacrifice fly to right field to plate Shaffer for the Tigers first run of the inning. Kieboom followed with a single through the right side to plate Miller. Stolz wrapped up the scoring with a RBI groundout to stretch the Clemson lead to 10-3 after four innings.
The Tigers tacked on a single run in the sixth. Hinson led off the innings with a triple just inside the first-base bag and Pohl followed with a single through the left side to drive in Hinson.
Clemson wrapped up the scoring with three more runs in the seventh. Pinch-hitters Dominic Attanasio and Jon McGibbon lined singles in their first career plate appearances to start the inning for the Tigers. Miller singled to plate Attanasio and Hinson walked to load the bases. After Kieboom was hit-by-pitch to bring in McGibbon, pinch-hitter Steve Wilkerson followed with a sacrifice fly to left field to score Miller and stretch the Clemson lead to 14-3.
Miller went 2-for-3 with three runs, two RBI, two walks and a steal to pace Clemson’s 16-hit attack. The Tigers walked 10 times and also drew two hit-by-pitches to reached base an astounding 28 times in only eight innings. Every Tiger starter had a hit in the game and the Tigers also had five sacrifice flies on the day. Lamb, Attanasio, McGibbon, and Stolz had two hits each for the Tigers, while Kieboom had a career-high four RBI.
Scott Weismann (1-0) earned the win by pitching 5.0 innings, allowing three runs on five hits and one walk while striking out four. David Haselden, Justin Sarratt, and Joseph Moorefield pitched the final 4.0 innings allowing only two hits while striking out two. Eagle starter Kendall Lewis took the loss to fall to 0-1 on the season.
Eastern Michigan and Clemson will play game-two of the series Saturday at 1:00PM.