With top-seed Clemson needing a win to stave off elimination in Game 5 of the Clemson Regional on Sunday, it was the Tigers’ youngest players who came through when they needed them the most.
Kyle Wilkie had three hits and scored two runs, Logan Davidson hit a two-run home run that put the Tigers on top for good and pitcher Owen Griffith recorded the win after coming in for starter Pat Krall in the fifth inning. All three are true freshmen and all three helped Clemson to a 6-3 victory over UNC Greensboro at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
“It is pretty cool when you get guys like Wilkie, Davidson and Owen Griffith … you have three freshman there making major, major contributions to our team tonight to help us win this ballgame,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said.
Wilkie, who came into the game hitting just .163, set the pace for the Tigers as he went 3-for-3, including a lead-off single through the left side in the top of the seventh inning that started a three-run rally.
“The thing about Kyle, he will give you competitive at-bats,” Lee said. “Kyle is going to compete for you. He has great make up. He is a tough kid and we just love the way he competes for us and he did it tonight for us.”
After Jordan Greene grounded out to second to move Wilkie over, Davidson gave Clemson a 4-3 lead when he sent Dan Loats’ 1-0 offering off the top of the batting cages in right field. The freshman’s home run, his 12th of the season, scored Wilkie as well.
The Tigers tacked on a third run in the inning when Reed Rohlman scored following a wild pitch from Spartans reliever Bryce Hensley. Rohlman singled, Seth Beer was walked and Chase Pinder singled to centerfield to load the bases, setting up Rohlman’s slide home on a wild pitch.
Davidson added his third RBI of the game in the top of the eighth inning when he scored Grayson Byrd, who doubled down the left field line to start off the inning.
After Wilkie and Davidson did their part, Griffith continued what he started in the fifth inning and earned the victory on the mound. The righty gave up just one hit in 4 1/3 scoreless innings of work. He had five strikeouts to one walk.
“Owen Griffith saved us right there. He was unbelievable,” Lee said. “We brought him in early in the ballgame and he pitched an outstanding ballhgame, throwing zero after zero. Even with some adversity there in the eighth inning, he pitched his way out of it.”
Clemson trailed 3-0 after UNCG plated three runs in the bottom of the third inning. Ben Spitznagel doubled down the first base line to drive in one run, while Andrew Moritz singled to right field to drive in a second, while Michael Goss was also credited with driving in a run.
The Tigers (41-20) slowly began their comeback in the fourth when Beer, who dropped a ball in right field to spark the Spartans’ three-run third inning, launched a bomb that hit off the batting cages in right field to make the score 3-1.
Clemson added another run in the top of the fifth inning when Wilkie, who led off the inning with single that dropped into left field, scored on a Rohlman sac fly to left field.
Krall started the game for the Tigers and pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits. Lee then brought in his true freshman did get the job done with the season on the line.
“I felt like he was the best arm we had sitting in the bullpen to win us the ballgame,” Lee said.
Clemson will play Vanderbilt in the Championship round of the regional later tonight. The Tigers have to win twice to win the regional.