By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
Garrett Boulware is one of those guys that does not mind speaking his mind. When things are not going well, he tells it like it is.
Though 13th-ranked Clemson won two of three games this past weekend against what he calls a “pretty good Eastern Michigan team,” Boulware was not happy with the fact the Eagles crossed home plate a combined 16 times in the three-game series.
“I can’t speak for the pitching side of this, but we definitely have to allow less runs,” the catcher said. “We have some great pitchers on our staff and I have all the confidence in the world in them, but we have to give up less runs.
“When we have two good things going, we can’t have two things come right back at us.”
Clemson pitching coach Dan Pepicelli can speak for the pitchers and he agrees with Boulware – his pitchers have to do a better job. In fact, he took some of the blame for his pitchers inconsistencies this past weekend.
“I tried something on Friday,” he admitted. “What we tried to do was bridge because we were on short pitch counts that first week. I thought we were in a good scenario where I thought we could use some older guys and bridge us to the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, but that did not go very well.
“That was the only part of the game where it did not go well. Once it did not go well, it happened fast.”
And it cost the Tigers a game. But it is easy to understand his thinking. Pepicelli had starter Daniel Gossett on a pitch count and when the ace of the staff began reaching 85 pitches he knew it was time to pull him. He brought in former weekend starter Kevin Pohle, who was back in action for the first time since injuring his arm prior to the start of last season. It was not a good return.
Pohle struggled to find the zone as he gave up three runs on three hits in a third of an inning, while blowing Gossett’s 4-1 lead. His replacement Kyle Schnell also struggled in a third inning of work, giving up another run in the sixth as well.
Before Clay Bates could come in and put the fire out, Eastern Michigan grabbed a 5-4 lead and eventually went on to win the game in 10 innings, 6-5.
“We were really inconsistent. I saw some nerves,” Pepicelli said. “One of the things we really do a good job of is working down in the zone. That’s our thing. Last year that’s what we did. It’s kind of a byproduct of being excited for the weekend. I did not see a lot of pitches down in the zone.”
Though they fought through some nerves as well, Matthew Crownover and Zack Erwin teamed up for a 5-3 win on Saturday. Crownover got the win after throwing five innings of work, allowing one earned run on four hits with no walks and nine strikeouts.
Erwin pitched the last four innings, giving up one run on three hits with four strikeouts and no walks.
On Sunday Pepicelli thought starter Jake Long was too fired up and lost his ability to finish. The East Tennessee transfer, who was all the rage in the preseason, lasted only two and two thirds of an inning, allowing four runs on five hits. He allowed four straight two-out hits in the third inning, which allowed Eastern Michigan to take a 4-3 lead at the time.
Prior to that Long cruised through the first two innings as he recorded two strikeouts and got out of both innings with no real threat from the Eagles.
“Jake Long is capable of being much better than that,” Pepicelli said. “He got off to a hot start. What you saw in the first two innings is really who he is, but he got stuck. When he got stuck and his pitch count went up and he got tired then he could not get out of the inning.
“I’m trying to get him to make the last pitch and get out of there. I’m trying to teach him in the first weekend because at some point later in the year he is going to have to be able to make that pitch and end an inning.”
Bates again came in and cooled off the Eagles as he gave up only one hit and no runs in another inning and a third before Clate Schmidt came in and gave up two more runs on four hits in two innings and a third of work.
Matt Campbell eventually picked up the win in the final two and two third innings after the Tigers rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning.
“They (Eastern Michigan) did an exceptional job of hitting middle of the way and being able to take that pitch that was up and do something with it,” Pepicelli said. “It was a battle to the end. (Campbell) did not have great command of his stuff, but he showed a lot of heart, competed and got the series win for us.”
Clemson will try and win another series this weekend win it host Maine in a three-game set starting on Friday at 4 p.m. at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Pepicelli is hoping he will have a full staff on hand, too after missing Patrick Andrews—who was out with some tendonitis in his throwing arm—and a few others who were out with the flu.
“I had a skinny bullpen so I just tried to spread them out a little bit. They had to gut it out,” the Clemson coach said. “If Jake does what he is capable of doing then that bullpen does not need to get so stretched out on Sunday. Then you can go Bates, Schmit and Campbell. Everybody stays in their role and that is good. That is the biggest thing, just being able to see Jake extend himself the way he is capable of doing.
“(Gossett) is capable of pitching much better. I thought his stuff was up in the zone quite a bit. (Crownover) was okay. Honestly, I have seen them all pitch much better in the preseason. They were really geared up to do this and I think the anticipation did not necessarily bring out the best in them.”