Wilkie, long balls help Tigers complete sweep of Wake Forest

Wilkie, long balls help Tigers complete sweep of Wake Forest

Baseball

Wilkie, long balls help Tigers complete sweep of Wake Forest

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Thirteenth-ranked Clemson got back-to-back home runs from Chris Williams and Grayson Byrd in the fifth inning Sunday, and then two more long balls from Kyle Wilkie and Drew Wharton in the top of the eighth as the Tigers completed a three-game sweep of Wake Forest, 9-4, at David Couch Ballpark in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Wilkie, who had the game-winning double in Game 2 on Saturday, also had a two-run double in the fourth inning and finished the game with three RBIs. Williams and Byrd also had two hits for Clemson.

Clemson tied its season high with four home runs, while registering its first sweep at Wake Forest since 2005. The Demon Deacons had not lost a series at home since 2016.

“We played another great baseball game today,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said afterward. “We pitched extremely well. (Jake) Higginbotham threw up zeroes and in the bullpen, Ryley (Gilliam) did an outstanding job.

“We needed to stretch him out there because we were running low on available arms, so we needed him to give us something and he certainly did.”

The Tigers (29-11, 14-7 ACC) broke a scoreless game in the top of the fourth inning when Wilkie plated Williams and Byrd with a one-out double to right centerfield for a 2-0 lead. The Clemson catcher later scored on a wild pitch to Patrick Cromwell that got away from Wake catcher Logan Harvey.

After Wharton singled and moved Cromwell to third base, Jordan Greene laid down a well-executed bunt to bring Cromwell home with the fourth run.

Clemson extended its lead to 6-0 in the top of the fifth inning as Williams and Byrd hit back-to-back home runs with two out. Williams’ shot went over the wall in left field on a first-pitch offering from Chris Peluse. It was his team-leading 11th home run and 43rd RBI of the season.

Byrd took Peluse’s 3-1 pitch to right centerfield to make the score 6-0.

Wake Forest (18-23, 10-11 ACC) rallied in the bottom of the sixth with three runs on a Chris Lanzilli home run to left field and a two-run single to left by Michael Ludowig with two outs. All three runs were charged to relief pitcher Travis Marr.

The Demon Deacons got a fourth run in the bottom of the seventh inning when Shortstop Patrick Frick homered to left field off Clemson reliever Carson Spiers. That made the score 6-4, but the momentum was short lived.

The Tigers took control of the game once again as Wilkie blasted his second home run of the season down the left field line on Thomas Witt’s first pitch of the eighth inning. One batter later, Wharton homered to the same spot on a 1-0 pitch.

The two home runs gave Clemson an 8-4 lead before Logan Davidson doubled to right field to score Greene for a five-run advantage.

Higginbotham earned his sixth win in seven decisions on the mound after he pitched five scoreless innings. He gave up four hits and struck out three in his five innings of work.

Gilliam went the final 3 2/3 innings to save Higginbotham’s victory.

Clemson will host Kennesaw State at Doug Kingsmore Stadium Tuesday. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m.

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