Trying to gain separation

Trying to gain separation

Baseball

Trying to gain separation

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By Will Vandervort.

By Will Vandervort

For 23 innings last weekend, Clemson’s offense did very little.

The Tigers, who are breaking in several new players, managed just four runs and 17 hits through two and half games against William & Mary. Down 1-0 in the rubber match of the three-game series, it was an unlikely source that got the Clemson bats swinging.

Catcher Garrett Boulware laced a double to left centerfield in the bottom of the sixth inning, which sparked a three-run inning. That momentum carried over into the seventh as the Tigers sent 11 batters to the plate and scored six runs to break the game open.

In the last three innings, Clemson (2-1) combined for 12 runs and 14 hits in route to a 12-2 victory. Boulware, who did not play in Game 2, finished the afternoon 2-for-3 with two RBIs. He finished the series with three hits overall in six at-bats.

“We needed to get something going, and it just happened to be me,” he said.

It was a good start to the season for the sophomore, who is still in a battle with freshman Matt Reed for the starting job. Boulware started behind the plate in Friday’s 2-0 victory over William & Mary, in which Daniel Gossett pitched a solid 6.2 innings without allowing a run and striking out six.

Boulware started again on Sunday as starter Scott Firth threw a near perfect seven innings, while giving up only two hits and striking out five batters. Overall, it was a good start for the Anderson, SC native, who says he is starting to feel more and more comfortable behind the plate.

“I feel a lot better, especially in the second game,” the sophomore said. “In the first game, I had the first-game jitters, but in the second game I felt a lot better. (Dan Pepicelli) showed confidence in me so I felt really good back there.”

Being that he was able to keep William & Mary runners at bay in both games, plus he improved with how he handled Gossett’s and Firth’s breaking balls and off-speed pitches, Boulware might have separated himself a little bit in the competition of who will be the Tigers’ full-time catcher.

“He did a nice job, but he has to continue to keep on working on his role behind the plate,” Clemson head coach Jack Leggett said. “He did a nice job today and worked really well with Scotty Firth. He just has to continue to work on his receiving skills and throwing the ball to second base and throwing people out.

“He just needs to have a presence back there. We are looking for a guy to be a catalyst for us and hopefully, he will continue to play well and he will continue to get some opportunities to do that.”

It doesn’t hurt that Boulware is also hitting doubles and driving in runs from the No. 9 hole in the batting lineup.

“He did a nice job for us,” Leggett said. “He hit that double with (one) out in the sixth inning and then we got those three runs. Then he got a nice base hit off a breaking ball with a couple of guys on base in the seventh inning so he did a nice job for us.”

And that’s really all Boulware wants to do. He just wants to do his job.

“It felt awesome. It really felt good,” he said. “The first day, I was kind of unsure about my swing and the timing of everything, but in the second game, I was ready to be in there. I was ready to hit. I just felt really good.”

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