By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
Clemson head coach Jack Leggett was confident his team was going to bounce back from Friday’s heartbreaking loss to 12th-ranked Virginia. His team proved him right on Saturday.
“It’s fun making him happy,” said catcher Garrett Boulware.
Boulware definitely made Leggett happy when he drilled Josh Sborz’s 2-0 offering to the gap in right centerfield with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning. The hit, which came with two outs, lifted the Tigers to a 7-6 victory at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
“He is in a lot better mood and it is a lot easier for us to play,” Boulware said happily.
The win should keep Leggett in a real good mood for at least the next 12 hours or so. It snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Cavaliers (16-2, 3-2 ACC) as well as a six-game streak in one-run games to the visitors from Virginia.
“We are a pretty resilient group,” Leggett said. “We are young, but we came back and we tried to flush (Friday’s loss). It was tough. I can’t lie to you. I had a sleepless night. I’m just that kind of guy.
“I will sleep better tonight and we will come out here tomorrow. (Virginia) is a good baseball team. They are very well coached and very solid. They have good pitching. They play good defense. They don’t hurt themselves and they have dangerous hitters in the lineup. We were fortunate tonight to pitch well in clutch situations and we were fortunate to play good defense and we got some big hits as the game went on.”
No one hit bigger than Boulware. The sophomore, who is hitting .391 over the last six games, started his night with a triple that scored two runs in the first inning. Then he hit a solo home run in the third inning and then his game-winning single in the ninth.
In all, Boulware was 3-for-5 with four RBIs. The four-RBI night is the second time in as many weeks he has drove in four or more runs in a game. He had five RBIs and two home runs in a win at NC State on March 8.
“He has been swinging the bat pretty good,” said Leggett, who moved Boulware up in the lineup to the cleanup spot earlier this week. “Even last weekend at NC State he had some really nice games. He has just been seeing the ball real well. He knows the strike zone well. He does not strikeout very much.
“He is a pretty tough out.”
That’s why Leggett felt good when Boulware stepped up the plate with the bases load and two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
Thomas Brittle led things off for Clemson (11-6, 3-2 ACC) with a single to centerfield and then moved over to second thanks to a sacrifice bunt from Tyler Slaton. Virginia then intentionally walked third baseman Jay Baum to try and set up a double play ball.
After rightfielder Steven Duggar, who had two hits and an RBI, struck out, Steve Wilkerson, who also had two hits, got an infield single to deep short to load the bases for Boulware.
Sborz, who came in the game just to face Boulware, fell behind in the count with two pitches that were low and inside. Waiting for a fastball all night, Boulware stayed patient and on Sborz’s third pitch he got what he was looking for.
“The best way to hit a curveball is to hit a fastball,” Boulware said. “I was just waiting for the fastball and when I saw it, I just did what I could and it worked out.”
At first Boulware did not think it was going to work out when he saw centerfielder Brandon Downes tracking the ball as fast as he could.
“The centerfielder was flying across the field,” he said. “I was kind of scared that he was going to get to it, but when I started rounding first base I saw it falling, and I was like, ‘Thank God!’”
So were the 5,006 fans that were in attendance Saturday night.
“It was a great feeling, honestly,” Boulware said. “We had stuff going last night, and I was just praying we didn’t leave this in the game and have to go another couple of extra innings. I was just doing everything I could to get the ball on the ground or in play just so we had a chance.
“I just didn’t want to go extra innings with these guys again because they are a good team. We are too, but it was a battle so I just wanted to get that done as soon as possible.”