For third straight year Clemson must win final two games to beat the Gamecocks
COLUMBIA, S.C. — A lot of the players on seventh-ranked Clemson’s baseball team have been here before against rival South Carolina, losing the first game of their three-game series due to an error which allowed the winning run to cross home plate.
Last year, the Gamecocks used a dropped flyball by former Tiger K.J. Bryant in the sixth inning to beat Clemson 2-0 in Game 1 of that three-game series. On Friday at Founders Park in Columbia, a miscommunication from first baseman Chris Williams and pitcher Ryley Gilliam in the bottom of the ninth cost the Tigers in a 3-2 loss to No. 23 South Carolina.
Gilliam’s pickoff move to first base went past Williams, who pulled off the base just when Gilliam threw over in hopes of catching USC’s Jonah Bride sleeping. The play was a bust as it got past Williams, allowing Bride to go all the way to third base.
Two batters later, T.J. Hopkins sacrificed him home with a flyball to left field for the game-winning run.
“I think a lot of guys that were there for that experience understand what we need to do,” right fielder Seth Beer said afterward.
What the Tigers (8-1) need to do is get a win. Clemson has to beat the Gamecocks (7-3) today at Greenville’s Fluor Field in Game 2 (3 p.m.) in order to keep its hopes alive for winning a fourth straight series against its rivals.
The Tigers have been here before against USC. In each of the last two years, Clemson lost the opener to the Gamecocks, but rallied to win Games 2 and 3 to take the series.
“I think the biggest thing for our upper classmen and guys that have been in these shoes, is just explain that we have some talented guys, whether it is pitching or (Bryce Teodosio) in centerfield and so many different roles, just being able to explain that,” Beer said. “The biggest thing is to tell them that they need to understand that this is baseball. This isn’t high school baseball where a team can go thirty-something and two or whatever, this is college baseball.
“Teams are going to be good. Teams are going to fight to the bit, to the last out. I think a lot of our guys have a good grasp on that so I think tomorrow we are just going to come out bright and early and get something going.”
Clemson needs to get its bats going if it hopes to beat the Gamecocks. USC pitcher Adam Hill was magnificent in limiting the Tigers to two hits in seven innings of work in Game 1, while striking out 14 batters, which matched his career-high and tied his own Founders Park record.
At one point he rolled by matching a school record with seven straight strikeouts. Clemson batters struck out 16 times overall against South Carolina pitching and its two hits against Hill was all it got all night.
One hit was Beer’s two-run bomb to right field in the top of the sixth inning that gave them a 2-1 lead at the time. The other came on a Chris Williams single to left field later in the inning.
“We certainly wish we could have had a few more at-bats with runners on base, but we didn’t,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “Seth was the only threat that we had tonight.”