By Will Vandervort
Jack Leggett’s plan for this weekend is simple – continue what they started last Sunday.
What Clemson started last Sunday was a barrage of base hits, sprinkled in with a few doubles here and there, during a three-inning stretch that saw it total 12 runs on 14 hits. The offensive explosion allowed the Tigers to rally from a one-run deficit to a 12-2 victory in taking two of three games from William & Mary in the season-opening series.
Now it’s time for Clemson to continue that as the Tigers are scheduled to open a three-game series with Wright State Saturday (1 p.m.) at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Of course that is all depending on how the weather holds up. Game 1 of the series was postponed Friday due to inclement weather and moved to Saturday where they will try to play a doubleheader.
“I hope we can continue what we started on Sunday,” Leggett said Thursday afternoon. “We started to play pretty good baseball in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings. We got a little bit loosened up offensively. I will like to see us turn our engine to that speed.
“We got some bunts down and had big base hits when we had to have them.”
The Tigers (2-1) got good pitching, too. Scott Firth pitched a gem in Sunday’s win, going seven innings and allowing only one run on two hits. He had five strikeouts and issued just one walk.
On Friday, Daniel Gossett went 6.2 innings, did not allow any runs and only gave up four hits, while striking out six batters with one free pass as well. Clate Schmidt, who will start Saturday’s game, Jonathan Meyer, Joseph Moorefield, Clay Bates and Matt Campbell also pitched well in relief.
The Clemson defense, which features seven new fielders, played well as they committed only three errors for the weekend.
“For the most part, our pitching was pretty good and our defense was good, but our offense was a little stagnant at times, but we faced some experienced pitchers that knew how to change their speeds and kept us off balance,” Leggett said.
But the Tigers figured things out by the sixth inning on Sunday and in the process Leggett was able to see some of his young players, like freshmen Steven Duggar, Tyler Krieger, Mike Triller and Maleeke Gibson, make plays and get big hits, while some of the older and more experienced guys like Garrett Boulware, Jay Baum, Thomas Brittle and Jon McGibbon come through in key situations.
Transfer Shane Kennedy also made a big splash in his debut as a Tiger with three RBIs, including a two-run bomb in the bottom of the eighth inning in Game 1 that lifted Clemson to a 2-0 victory.
“We learned some things,” Leggett said. “We saw some young guys step up and saw some older guys step up, too. It was a good weekend for us. It was a good learning experience for us overall.”
Now the Tigers face a Wright State team that is playing with a lot of confidence. The Raiders enter the weekend series with a 3-0 record after defeating Dayton 5-1 at home on Monday. They also won both games last weekend at a tournament in Cary, NC.
This marks Wright State’s first 3-0 start to a season since 1991.
“I hope we can continue to work on making ourselves a better team,” Leggett said. “Wright State is going to be good and they are going to give us a lot of challenges. But at the same time, our job is to play better baseball and that’s really what I’m mostly concerned about.”