By Scott Firth.
By Will Vandervort
Once again a good weekend went sour in one game for Clemson. In fact, it went sour in one inning.
After taking Game 1 of a doubleheader Saturday to clinch the three-game series over Duke, the Tigers were blown out, 13-1, in the second game. Duke totaled 15 hits and had 11 of them by the end of the fourth inning.
“You only feel as good as your last game,” Clemson head coach Jack Leggett. “We finished 4-1 on the week and you feel like a dog at the end of the weekend. We just did not play well today. They played really well and we did not pitch well and we did not play good defense.
“We were scrambling behind and the next thing you know we are having trouble on offense so it was just a combination of everything today. It was just one of those days.”
It marked the fourth straight weekend in which Clemson lost its series finale. To top it off, the 12-run loss was the worst defeat at the hands of the Blue Devils in the 109-year history of the series – 194 games overall.
“We just kind of let up and we got comfortable, honestly,” catcher Garrett Boulware said. “We had two really good wins and we had confidence, but we had too much confidence. I guess we thought if we did not bring everything we had that we could still beat them and it got us.”
The Tigers (15-8, 5-4 ACC) beat Duke 8-4 in the first game of the doubleheader Saturday and 7-0 Friday night to win the series. It was Clemson’s 10th straight home series victory against the Blue Devils.
“We had a good week. We went 4-1, and it feels like we got swept,” Boulware said. “It is not a good feeling, especially losing, and Duke is a good program, but not losing 13-1 at home. I mean that is just embarrassing.”
The Blue Devils (12-12, 3-6 ACC) scored eight runs in the top of the fourth inning when they brought 13 batters to the plate. They had six hits in the inning, two by second baseman Andy Perez, who drove in three runs in the two at-bats. The first was a double to left center field to score Reed Anthes.
Later in the inning, Perez came up with two outs and again drove in Anthes as well as leftfielder Mark Lumpa when he hit safely to right after the ball bounced off Jon McGibbon’s glove at first base. That made the score 11-0 at the time.
“They had so much momentum going, it was crushing us every time we got a good play going,” Boulware said. “Something would go wrong. We looked like we were going to turn a double play and then we would make an error throwing it to first.
“We could not get anything going.”
Duke’ first seven runs of the game were charged to Clemson starter Scott Firth, who for the second straight week struggled on the mound. He lasted just 3.1 innings and allowed eight hits. This after giving up six runs and nine hits in only five innings of work in last Sunday’s loss to Virginia.
“We have to get a little bit better pitching on Sunday or that last day. That will help us,” Leggett said. “That will help us get back to where we need to be.”
It hasn’t all been Firth’s fault. He has seldom played with the lead during his current four-game losing streak. In the last 27 innings he has pitched, the Tigers have scored only one run for the senior.
“Scotty pitched well. He did not have things go his way,” Boulware said. ”Scotty is a great pitcher and I know he is going to bounce back. It wasn’t on him. It was all parts of our team. It wasn’t just the pitching. We did not back him up on offense either.”
The Tigers, which finished the game with five hits, scored their only run in the bottom of the sixth inning when pinch hitter Joe Costigan scored on a Thomas Brittle sacrifice fly to right field. Costigan led off the inning with a double to right centerfield.
“We got way too comfortable in that last game. We definitely should have taken this last one. We should have swept them,” Boulware said.
Clemson will be back in action against Georgia on Tuesday night in Athens, GA as it hits the road for its first of eight road games over the next 10. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.