OXFORD, Miss — Monte Lee said prior to Friday’s 8-4 win over No. 2 Illinois that the plan for No. 3 seed Clemson, when it came to its pitching, was to set it up so it can have a chance to win the Oxford (Miss.) Regional.
Well, he and the Tigers had to deviate from that plan just a little bit. Lee was hopeful starter Jacob Hennessy would be able to go a little longer against Illinois, but the Illini ran him off before the end of the third inning. So, the Clemson coach had to turn to his second option, Davis Sharpe, a little sooner than he wanted to.
The good news for Clemson (35-24) is that Sharpe went the rest of the way with one of his better performance in over a month. The freshman went the final 6 2/3 innings, while allowing no earned runs on three hits.
“We would have liked to have gotten deeper into the game with Jacob, but we only used two pitchers in the game,” Lee said. “We had Carson (Spiers) down there for a while. We had (Sam) Weatherly and Owen (Griffith) warm up and just throw a little bit, just based on the game situation right there. But the fact that we did not have to use those three guys, along with Holt (Jones), those four guys we use a lot out of the bullpen.
“We did not have to use them (Friday) and that is certainly going to help us as we go into (today) and into the next day.”
Though the Tigers have burned Sharpe for the rest of the weekend, Hennessy could still be used in a situational spot or two over the next couple of games. Hennessy threw 51 pitches in 2 1/3 innings of work on Friday.
“It was great getting out of here only having to use two guys,” Lee said. “We would have liked to have gotten deeper with Jacob, but Davis certainly stepped up and pitched very well for us and that was the recipe for the win (Friday).”
The recipe for today will be the left arm of Mat Clark. Clemson is hopeful the redshirt sophomore can go long again tonight when they take on top seed Ole Miss (7 p.m.) at Swayze Field in Oxford.
Clark is coming off a performance in which he came three outs of throwing a no-hitter and six of throwing a perfect game in last week’s ACC Tournament win over Louisville.
The lefty has gone at least six innings in each of his last three starts and has been Clemson’s most consistent pitcher all season. He has a 9-2 record in 13 appearances, including 10 starts. He has a 2.84 ERA in 69 2/3 innings of work.
“Hopefully Mat will gives us what Mat can give us,” Lee said. “If he can give us a great start, he has been very consistent for us all year. We need him to get deep into that ballgame.
“We have a number of guys we can use. We have Holt. We have Owen Griffith. We got Weatherly. We have Carson and we can stretch Carson out if needed. So, we certainly have a number of options we can use behind Mat, but hopefully, Mat can get us deep into the ballgame and we can shrink the innings on the backend and only have to throw maybe one, one and one or whatever the case maybe.”