By Trey McCurry.
Sixteen-ranked Clemson used a great relief effort from sophomore righthander Jonathan Meyer and some timely hitting to defeat Duke 9-6 in front of 4,166 fans Friday night at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. The Tigers snapped a five-game losing streak and improved to 8-7 (1-3 ACC) while the Blue Devils fell to 15-5 (2-2 ACC).
Meyer (1-0) earned the win in relief as he allowed only one hit and one walk against a career-high seven strikeouts in 5.0 innings. Alex Frederick retired the final two Blue Devils in the ninth to earn his first save of the season. Duke starter Drew Van Orden (2-3) suffered the loss allowing 10 hits, one walk and eight runs (seven earned) over 2.2 innings.
Unlike the past few games, Clemson wasted no time getting on the scoreboard against the Blue Devils. John Hinson led off the bottom of the first with a single to right and advanced to third on a Jeff Schaus one-out double down the left-field line. Cleanup-hitter Phil Pohl followed with a single up the middle to score both runners and give the Tigers an early 2-0 lead after one inning.
The Tiger bats were at it again in the second inning. Jason Stolz led off the inning with a bloop double just inside the left-field line and moved over to third on a Steve Wilkerson groundout. Hinson followed with a single up the middle to score Stolz and add to the Tigers lead. Hinson was then able to move around to third when Duke catcher Jeff Kremer had him picked off but threw the ball away down the first base line. Will Lamb followed with a deep sacrifice fly to centerfield to plate Hinson and put Clemson up 4-0 after the second inning.
Duke staged a rally of its own in the top of the third. The Blue Devils used six hits and a Tiger error to score four two-out runs and tie the game at four.
Clemson answered the Blue Devils in the bottom of the inning. Richie Shaffer led off with a single threw the left side and advanced on a Chris Epps’ groundout. After another out, Stolz lined a two-out double over the leftfielders head to score Shaffer and put the Tigers back on top. But Clemson was not done as Wilkerson followed with a single through the left side to plate Stolz. After a Hinson bunt single, Lamb lined a singled through the right side to score Wilkerson and keep the Clemson rally going. Schaus lined a single to left-centerfield to score Hinson and give Clemson an 8-4 lead after three innings thanks to four two-out runs of their own.
The two team’s bullpens took over the next four-and-a-half innings before Clemson broke through with another two-out run in the bottom of the eighth inning. Schaus lined his second double of the game to the left-center gap to get the rally going and Pohl knocked him in with a double of his own to right-center to put the Tigers up 9-4 going to the ninth.
The Blue Devils staged a rally in the top of the ninth scoring two runs and bringing the tying run to the plate twice before Frederick came in to close out the game.
Clemson totaled 14 hits in the game, including five doubles, in a pretty different lineup. Schaus went 3-for-4 with two doubles, two runs, a walk and an RBI. Hinson, in his first career start as the leadoff batter, went 3-for-5 with three runs and an RBI while Pohl was 2-for-5 with a double and three RBI. Stolz was 2-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored. Kremer lead the Blue Devils at the plate with three hits as Duke totaled 11 hits in the game.
The Tigers for for the series win Saturday in a 6:30PM contest at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.