Kyle Wilkie called it.
Before seventh-ranked Clemson took on Winthrop Tuesday afternoon at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, the sophomore catcher told Clemson Baseball’s Sports Information Director, Brian Hennessy, he would see him at the post-game press conference later that night.
Sure enough, the seventh-ranked Tigers defeated the Eagles 9-8 when Wilkie delivered with a one out, walkoff single in the bottom of the 10th inning to improve Clemson’s record to 8-0.
Not only was Wilkie the game-winning hero of Tuesday, but the Cumming, Ga., native also had a major at-bat in the sixth inning that kept hope alive for the Tigers.
After going into the bottom of the sixth inning trailing Winthrop 8-4, Clemson rallied for three runs. Wilkie had an RBI single in the inning, which brought in the Tigers’ seventh run.
“The first at-bat in the sixth inning, I had pulled off the first few at-bats and rolled over,” Willkie said after Tuesday’s game. “So I just tried to stay through the ball and I got a good count to be in. It was a 2-0 count so I just saw that fastball where I wanted it and drove through it.”
With runners on the corners and one out for the Tigers in the bottom of the 10th inning, Wilkie stepped up to the plate and drove a single up the middle off of Eagles’ pitcher Dalton Whitaker.
“He had thrown four straight curveballs to Bryce Teodosio so when I went up there I just said, ‘I am going to sit on the curveball’ and he threw it first pitch and I just put my best swing on it,” Wilkie said.
Although Wilkie’s bat got off to a slow start this season, he came into Tuesday’s game batting just .091 on the season, he proved what he is capable of at the plate, going 2-for-5 with two crucial RBIs.
“It’s always fun to hit a walkoff, it was my first one here,” said the former Creekview High School standout. “But everybody goes into a slump and I just told myself I have to keep working. Guys are telling me to just keep hitting and it will all work out.”
As anyone familiar with baseball knows, sometimes one solid hit is all it takes to regain some confidence and jump out of that slump.
“(A walkoff) will boost your confidence by a lot,” Wilkie said. “But anytime you start seeing the ball well I think that’s the main key to hitting … when you start seeing the ball. That’s what I did tonight. I just simplified my approach and tried to stay through the ball and hit it the other way.”
Wilkie and the Tigers now turn their focus on rival South Carolina this weekend. They’ll face the 23rd-ranked Gamecocks Friday at 7 p.m., in Game 1 of a three-game series that starts in Columbia at Founder’s Park.