It was not quite the kind of game No. 9 Clemson imagined when it scored four runs in the top of the first inning on Saturday against Notre Dame, but nonetheless it found a way to get another win.
After getting four hits in the first inning, the Tigers managed just three the rest of the game, while starting pitcher Pat Krall struggled for a third straight week. Regardless, they found a way to get the win when Chase Pinder drove home Weston Jackson with a sacrifice fly to left field in the bottom of the fifth inning for a 6-5 victory.
“Honestly, I think it is a good win for us,” Pinder said after the game. “We got ahead, and honestly, we did not do much to let them back in the game, they just hit their way back into the game. So it was good to see us respond and pull out a close win.
“We have won in completely different ways in different games. This is good to see.”
The win allowed the Tigers to win their fifth straight overall and their 10th game in the last 11 outings, while also clinching the series against the Irish.
“It was great to win the series today. I’m very proud of my team,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “We jumped out early right there in the first with a big inning and scored a bunch of runs. We had a 5-1 lead and then all of sudden, bam! Notre Dame came right back.”
Clemson (11-3) used four hits to score four runs in the bottom of the first inning to take a 4-0 lead on Notre Dame. Pinder, who had two hits, opened the Clemson first by ripping a double down the left field line on a 0-1 pitch, and then scored when Reed Rohlman drove in a run with a base hit to right field that just got past the outstretched arm of Notre Dame first baseman Kyle Fiala.
Rohlman then moved to third on another hit, this time by Seth Beer, that just got past Fiala, again. After Chris Williams drew a walk to load the bases, Andrew Cox hit a sac fly to left field to bring Rohlman home for a 2-0 lead. Beer came home on a passed ball a few minutes later to up the Clemson lead to 3-0.
Williams, who moved up to third on the passed ball, made the score 4-0 when he scored on fielder’s choice to third from Weston Jackson.
After Notre Dame cut the Clemson lead to three runs in the top of the second inning, Clemson bounced back to score its fifth run of the game in the innings’ bottom frame. Pinder drew a walk to start the inning, then stole second base and moved to third on a grounder to first by Rohlman.
Pinder later scored on Williams’ ground ball to first base after Beer was hit by a pitch.
Clemson lead 5-1 after two innings of play. However, the Irish rallied in the top of the fifth inning with three runs to run off Krall. The lefty lasted just four and 1/3 innings as he gave up nine of Notre Dame’s 11 hits.
“I know he has not pitched to the way he is accustomed and he needed to make some adjustments,” Lee said. “The best start he had this year was probably against the best offense we played in Wright State so it is definitely there, he just has to make some pitches.
“The biggest difference right now is that he is up in the zone some. We just have to do a better job of finding some different things that we can do with him and to make him more effective and to help him get through it. Again, even when he is not at his best, we are finding ways to score runs in his start.”
Brooks Crawford came on in relief and shut the door on the Irish. He went the rest of the way and allowed just two hits and no runs.
“We had to stretch him today in relief and he did an outstanding job,” Lee said.
Crawford also got some help from second baseman Jordan Greene, who fielded a ball in the hole just past second base and threw out the batter for a SportsCenter type of play. After the game, Lee said Greene, who also had a hit and drew two walks, earned himself a second straight start on Sunday with his performance.
Clemson and Notre Dame are scheduled to finish the three-game series on Sunday with first pitch still scheduled for 1 p.m., though inclement weather is expected to move into the Clemson area on late Saturday.