By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
It might be South Carolina week already for Clemson fans, but the baseball team will not start looking at their feud with the Gamecocks until they take care of business against Winthrop on Wednesday.
The Tigers and the Eagles will get together at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. The game was scheduled for today, but the game was moved to Wednesday due to field conditions after heavy rains hit the Upstate Tuesday morning.
For now, Clemson (5-1) is staying grounded after sweeping Wright State this past weekend, a series in which it posted two shutouts and committed just one error. The Raiders in all had 39 runners on base in the three-game series, but only three of those 39 crossed home plate.
“We kind of put a statement on the end of the weekend,” Clemson pitcher Scott Firth said. “We came out and pitched well all weekend and swung the bats well pretty much all weekend. The momentum gained going into (this) week is always easier when you beat somebody pretty handedly. You feel good about yourself going into the next week as opposed to dropping one on Sunday or struggling along and trying to figure things out.
“That’s why Sunday is an important day because it gets the momentum going for the next week.”
Firth (2-0) helped the Tigers gain their fourth straight victory with a dominating performance on the mound in a 7-0 victory on Sunday. He pitched a career-long eight innings, while giving up just five hits. Firth induced 14 ground balls against Wright State.
His defense backed him and the other pitchers up too, going the whole weekend with just one error, while the offense continues to get better.
This weekend Shane Kennedy, Steve Wilkerson and Jay Baum had multiple RBIs.
“I think we played well all weekend,” Clemson head coach Jack Leggett said.
Leggett hopes that continue this week. After playing his old hitting coach Tom Riginos and the Eagles on Tuesday, Clemson will host No. 7 South Carolina at 6:30 Friday night, play the Gamecocks at Fluor Field in Greenville on Saturday (2 p.m.) and then play them in Columbia on Sunday at 3 p.m.
“I like the way we are playing and I like the way we are moving around on the bases,” the Clemson coach said.
Through six games of the season, Leggett is starting to learn a thing or two about his young team. Despite playing with a brand new infield—with the exception of Wilkerson at second base—and two new outfielders, the Clemson defense has looked as solid as it has in years.
“I think our pitchers must have realized this weekend that we really do have a good defense,” Leggett said. “Let’s go ahead and put that ball in play and not walk anybody and let (the defense) play behind them. When they do that, I think we have a chance.”
Offensively, the Tigers are picking up runners in scoring position and are aggressive on the base pads. Freshmen Steven Duggar, Maleeke Gibson and Tyler Krieger have been productive through the first six games, and then there is the pitching.
Firth and Daniel Gossett have been almost unhittable on, and freshman Clate Schmidt wasn’t too shabby in his first career start Saturday. Relievers Zack Erwin, Jackson Campana, Kyle Schnell and Jonathan Meyer have pitched well too.
“I have learned we have a lot of interchangeable parts,” Leggett said. “We have some depth. We have some speed and we have some young guys that are going to help us win. The older guys that came back from last year are a year better.
“We have to be that good pitching, defense and timely hitting team that everyone wants to be. I like the way we are hustling and I like the way we are running the bases. We are going to make some mistakes, but I’m not worried about that. I’m interested more about being aggressive and trying to put pressure on the defense. We will make more good things happen than tough things happen to us in the long run.”