By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
COLUMBIA – If you can’t join them, beat them. That’s what Liberty catcher Trey Wimmer did Friday in the Flames’ 8-3 victory over Clemson in the Columbia Regional.
The senior from Greenwood, S.C., who grew up a Clemson fan, beat the Tigers with two hits and six RBIs, including a three-run bomb in the top of the sixth inning that gave Liberty a 7-2 lead at the time.
“When I was in high school, everyone wanted to play for Clemson or South Carolina,” he said. “They were the best two teams in the state and two of the best in the country, but it was kind of nice, kind of, to get a win against a team that you grew up liking and cheering for.
“It was a little different cheering against them, but it was fun to get a win.”
Liberty’s win also held off what everyone thought would be a Clemson-South Carolina match up in the winner’s bracket game. Instead the Tigers fall to the loser’s bracket and will play Saint Louis. The Gamecocks scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to get the win.
“We are just happy to be here in the South Carolina and Clemson circus,” Liberty coach Jim Toman said. “As a coach, I kind of know what Jack (Leggett) and Chad (Holbrook) are going through. They are in there telling their players that Liberty is pretty good and Saint Louis is pretty good, but as a coach you know what the players are thinking, too.
“It’s hard for them to believe, especially when they know they might have to play their rival. I think that was a little bit of an advantage for us.”
The Flames used that to their advantage in the top of the third inning. With runners on second and third with one out, Wimmer smacked a double to right centerfield to score Jake Kimble and Ashton Perritt for a 3-1 lead. He also had a sacrifice fly in the top of the first to score Liberty’s first run of the afternoon.
“We got outplayed. It was as simple as that,” Leggett said. “They got the big hits when they had to and when we made a poor pitch, they took advantage of it. You have to give them credit on how they played.”
Clemson’s Steven Duggar tried to keep the Tigers in the game. He had an RBI single in the first inning to score Thomas Brittle, and later singled to centerfield in the third inning to score Brittle again.
But the game belonged to Wimmer. With his brother Tyler, a senior at Clemson, sitting in the stands, he came up to the plate in the top of the sixth inning with runners on second and third again, and this time he sent Patrick Andrews’ first pitch to the bleachers in left field for a 7-2 lead.
“It’s just fun to beat any team as good as they are,” Wimmer said. “We have a lot of respect for those guys. I grew up watching Coach Leggett and his team as one of the most dominant teams in the last ten years. So to get a win against a team with that caliber was a lot of fun and it means a lot for us as a team.”
The Flames (35-27) also got a solo home run from Alex Close in the top of the fourth inning as he took Jonathan Meyer’s second pitch to lead off the inning over the left field wall.
The day did not totally belong to Wimmer. Pitcher Josh Richardson retired 17 batters after Duggar’s second hit in the third inning. Duggar later ended the streak with a double to right centerfield in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Richardson went the distance in the win and allowed just six hits and did not walk a batter all afternoon. It was Richardson’s third complete game of the season.
“He kept the ball down in the zone, and anytime a pitcher does that it is tough to put a pretty good swing on it,” Clemson centerfielder Thomas Brittle said.
The Tigers, who have lost six straight games, will have to figure something out to keep the 2013 season going. Ace Daniel Gossett will get the start for Clemson on Saturday. First pitch for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 2 p.m.