By Will Vandervort.
Skyler Weber’s sacrifice fly to centerfield in the top of the ninth inning allowed Nick King to score from third base with the winning run in Georgia’s 3-2 victory over Clemson Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs, who were stifled for most of the night by Clemson starter Jake Long, were able to get three hits in the eighth and ninth innings to rally for the win. It marked Georgia’ fourth straight win at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, while snapping its five-game losing streak in the process.
“We gave them a little life there at the very end,” Clemson head coach Jack Leggett said.
“It seems like when we make a mistake it comes back to haunt us,” he continued.
King reached to open the ninth inning after Eli White threw the ball away at short. After King stole second base, Stephen Wrenn, who opened the game with a home run, singled to left center field to set up Weber’s game-winning sacrifice fly.
“Honestly, we had a lot of opportunities during the course of the game and we had a lot of guys on base early. A big hit here or there makes a big difference, but unfortunately we did not come up with it,” Leggett said.
Clemson (16-16) did cash in on one of those opportunities. Robert Jolly, in just his second appearance of the season at home, delivered a two-out RBI double in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead at the time.
“He did a good job. It was a good match up and it was the right decision to put him in the ballgame and he did exactly what we need to have out of him,” Leggett said. “He gave us a lift and gave us the lead. I think it was one of those things where it happened to be a perfect match up for us.”
Clemson, who was 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position, was able to take the lead in the sixth inning when Chris Okey outran a ball hit to deep short with one out and Chase Pinder followed with a base knock to the same spot.
Following an Andrew Cox fly ball to right field, Jolly took a 0-2 pitch off Georgia’s Zach Waters down the left field side to plate Okey from third.
Jolly is 4-for-7 on the season as a pinch hitter.
“I’m just staying focused during games and the coaches really help me having great scouting reports on all the pitchers,” Jolly said. “If a new guy comes in, and there is an opportunity to pinch hit, they make sure we are ready and prepared.
“I’m just staying on top of everything and making sure my mind is always in it when there is a chance to go hit.”
The Tigers tied the game, 1-1, in the bottom of the second inning when Pinder took David Sosebee’s 1-2 pitch with two outs over the wall in left field. It marked Pinder’s third home run of the season.
Georgia (19-15) opened the game with a bang when Wrenn took Long’s first pitch and sent it over the left field fence. But the Bulldogs did very little after that.
The righty, who came off a knee injury on March 24, bottled up Georgia’s hitters. He gave up just the one run and scattered four hits and five walks in six innings of work. He had a career-high six strikeouts.
“I started mixing my pitches more,” Long said. “I started out throwing fastballs. I threw one right down the middle and he caught it. I think he knew it was coming, but if he didn’t, it was down the middle and he caught it.
“But as the game went on I started getting better with the pitch mix.”
Following the home run by Wrenn in the top of the first, the Bulldogs got runners on first and second with two outs, but Long got Keegan McGovern swinging to end the inning.
The Bulldogs also had runners in scoring position in the second, third and fifth innings, but they failed to get any more across on the Clemson junior. Long ended his night by getting pinch hitter Josh Day to ground to shortstop.
“Jake pitched well and Pat Krall came in and did a really good job, (Taylor) Vetzel did his thing and at the very end, (Alex) Bostic got his guy. So they did what they needed to do,” Leggett said.
Georgia finally got through to Clemson pitching in the top of the eighth inning when Trevor Kieboom, who played at Clemson and is the brother of former Tiger Spencer, singled to left center field to tie the game at two. He scored Brandon Stephens, who had a one-out hit to centerfield moments earlier.
Clemson will host Georgia Southern at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.