Tigers keep national seed hopes alive as junior hits a home run in the 11th inning
Grayson Byrd saved the day for No. 5 Clemson on Senior Day Sunday.
With its national seed hopes hanging in the balance, the junior took Harley Gollert’s 1-0 offering the opposite way to left centerfield, lifting the Tigers to a 3-2 victory in 11 innings over Austin Peay at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson.
The win allowed Clemson to win the series over the upstart Governors 2 games to 1.
“That was so much fun,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said afterward.
It was the Tigers (39-13) final home game of the regular season. Coincidentally, Clemson won its season-opener at Doug Kingsmore in walk-off fashion as Chris Williams singled in the game-winner in the bottom of the 10th inning to beat William & Mary on Feb. 16.
The Governors (30-22) had an opportunity to grab the lead in the 11th inning when it got runners on first and second with one out following two Travis Marr Walks. However, Marr struck out Garrett Giovannelli swinging and then got Garrett Kueber to ground out to short to end the threat.
“I’m just really proud and happy for Travis Marr,” Lee said. “He has had a tough couple of weeks here where things have not been going well for him. But, he has been outstanding out of the pen, but the last couple of weeks have been tough for him.
“But he keeps working and he keeps competing and he got an opportunity when he was basically our last right-hander we had available out of the bullpen today and he pitched extremely well.”
Clemson had an opportunity to win the game in the ninth and 10th innings after getting the go-ahead run 90 feet away with one out. However, in both cases the Tigers failed to push the runners across.
In the 10th, Jordan Greene and Logan Davidson got back-to-back walks to start the inning and then moved up to second and third on a passed ball. However, Seth Beer struck out looking with no outs and then after Chris Williams was intentionally walked, Kyle Wilkie hit into a 6-4-3 double play to short to end the inning.
The Tigers started the ninth when Wilkie led off the inning with a base hit through the left side and Grayson Byrd singled up the middle to put runners on first and second with no outs.
Drew Wharton then bunted both runners over to put the winning run in scoring position. However, Wilkie was thrown out at home when Austin Peay brought in its left fielder to have a position player at every area of the infield. Robert Jolly hit the ball to third base, giving the Governors a play at home plate to throw Wilkie out.
Sam Hall then flew out to centerfield to end the threat, sending the game into extra innings.
Clemson tied the game in the bottom of the sixth inning on a drawn walk by Kyle Wilkie and a sac fly from Grayson Byrd.
The Tigers loaded the bases after Jordan Greene singled through the left side to lead off the inning. Then with one out, Seth Beer and Chris Williams drew back-to-back walks and then Wilkie drew a third straight walk to score Greene.
Byrd then flew out to left field to score Beer with the tying run.
The Governors took a 2-0 lead in the top of the sixth, when Brett Newberg and Bobby Head drew back-to-back walks with two outs and the bases loaded to score the game’s first two runs.
The first five innings was a pitchers’ duel between Clemson’s Jake Higginbotham and Austin Peay’s Brandon Vial. The two combined to give up just five hits in the first five innings.
Higginbotham left with two out in the sixth after walking in the game’s first run. Vial, who was having a career day, left in the sixth innings as well after what looked like a finger injury to his throwing hand.
Clemson will visit Kennesaw State at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.