A two-error sixth inning cost Clemson a chance to beats its rival in front of the home crowd, as South Carolina scored twice in the frame and defeated the Tigers 2-0 on Friday night in an otherwise well-played game.
The loss was the Tigers’ first in six games and second in a row against the Gamecocks in a series-opening contest. They stranded 11 baserunners in a game that featured few scoring opportunities on either side of the ledger.
“We had our opportunities,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “Four out of the first five innings, we had the leadoff guy reach base, and we were unable to score.”
The 6,212 fans that packed a chilly Doug Kingsmore Stadium were treated to a classic pitchers’ duel featuring South Carolina ace Clarke Schmidt and Clemson lefty Charlie Barnes, neither of whom gave up an earned run. Schmidt (2-0) came into the game with a 0.69 earned run average and battled out of trouble all night long to keep it that way.
He set a new career high by walking seven batters in 5.2 innings. Nearly half (47) of his 100 pitches missed the strike zone. Clemson had multiple runners reach base four times against South Carolina—including a bases-loaded situation with one out in the fourth—but Schmidt thwarted each attack. He was especially good at inducing groundballs that resulted in three double plays.
“He did what good pitchers do,” Lee said. “He hung in there even when he probably wasn’t at his best. He kept battling and battling and found a way to get it to their two best relievers in (Josh) Reagan and (Tyler) Johnson.”
Barnes (0-1) matched—and arguably exceeded—Schmidt’s level of performance at every turn. He lasted 7.1 innings, walking two and striking out seven. The Gamecocks only had two earned runners reach scoring position against Barnes in Friday’s game, but one of them scored the eventual winning run.
“Pretty much everything was working,” Barnes said. “I tried to come in and attack the zone. My changeup was good. My fastball was good.”
The Gamecocks turned the scoreboard in their favor by putting pressure on the Tigers’ defense in the top of the sixth inning. TJ Hopkins led off the inning with a hot shot that shortstop Logan Davidson could not handle, then Jonah Bride sacrificed him to second. Matt Williams grounded a single to left field before Barnes induced a strikeout and a lazy fly ball to right field.
The fly ball should have ended the inning, but a sliding K.J. Bryant could not grab it. The ball ricocheted off his glove, allowing both runners to score on the second Tiger error of the frame.
“K.J. will tell you that’s a ball that he catches,” Lee said. “He got to the baseball. It just kind of hit his glove in an awkward way.”
Clemson threatened in the bottom of the sixth, putting two runners on base against Schmidt before he was removed in favor of Josh Reagan. The lefty calmly escaped with a groundout to first, and the Tigers never seriously threatened again.
The two teams will meet again at Fluor Field in Greenville on Saturday. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m.