Tigers win Game 1 of the rivalry series with 7-1 win in Columbia
COLUMBIA — It was not perfect night for Clemson in Columbia on Friday, but it was pretty close.
The Tigers hit three 2-run home runs and got a flawless pitching performance from starter Sam Weatherly, as Clemson beat rival South Carolina 7-1 at Founders Park in Columbia.
“The team that plays the best in games like tonight, often times are the ones who are the most composed, show poise, they are in control of their emotions and I felt we did a really good job of that tonight of just focusing on winning innings and winning pitches,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “We hit the big two-run homer and lets go win another inning, hit another two-run homer lets go win another inning.
“We really just tried to focus on the present, stayed relaxed and just competed. I felt like our guys did a good job of maintaining their emotions.”
Weatherly pitched seven hit-less innings in blanking the Gamecocks, while striking out 11 batters and walking just three. The lefty threw 104 pitches and was taken out of the game following the seventh inning.
Weatherly’s seven innings of work was a career high for the junior.
“It was pretty cool,” Weatherly said afterward. “Being an out-of-state kid, people would say I don’t care too much about this (rivarly), but I have been around it for three years now and I can tell you that it means as much to me as anybody. It was really special to go out there and perform like that and have my defense play the way they did and the way Coach (Andrew) See called the game.
“It all came together in a special way.”
The junior said he understood why Lee took him out of the game following the seventh inning.
“I knew I was at my pitch count,” Weatherly said. “It was early in the season. It is a little cold out here. I understand why I was taken out. If I could have kept my pitch count down a little more, hopefully, I would have been able to go out there and finish off the game.
“It is what it is. It was a great game.”
Clemson center fielder Bryce Teodosio kept Weatherly’s no-hitter alive in the bottom of the seven inning, when he made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch before hitting the centerfield wall, robbing George Callil of a sure double.
That was the closest the Gamecocks (6-3) came to getting a hit until Brady Allen hit a home run to left centerfield to breakup the no-no with no outs in the bottom of the ninth.
Allen hit the solo shot to left centerfield off Clemson reliever Geoffrey Gilbert.
The Tigers (8-1) got two-homers from Dylan Brewer, Davis Sharpe and Kier Meredith in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to build a 6-0 lead.
Clemson got on top of rival South Carolina in the top of the fourth inning. Right fielder Dylan Brewer launched a bomb to right field for a two-run home run, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead. Brewer’s home run scored Adam Hackenberg, who opened the inning with a double off the wall in leftfield.
It was Brewer’s first career home run.
Clemson extended its lead in the fifth inning. The Tigers got a two-run home run from Davis Sharpe to left centerfield for a 4-0 lead in the top of the fifth inning.
Sharps’ home run scored Meredith, who got on with a one-out double down the rightfield line.
Clemson continued to pour it on the sixth inning when Meredith hit a bomb over the South Carolina bullpen in the top of the inning to give the Tigers a 6-0 lead.
With two outs and Pierce Gallo at second base, Meredith lifted a 3-2 pitch from USC starter Carmen Mlodzinski over the right field wall. It was Clemson’s third homer of the game and Meredith’s first of the season.
Clemson had just two home runs in the first eight games prior to Friday’s game at Founders Park in Columbia.
Meredith led the Tigers with a 4-for-5 night at the plate, as he scored two runs and had the two RBIs. He was a triple away from hitting for the cycle.
The Tigers and Gamecocks will play Game 2 Saturday at 3 p.m. at Segra Park in Columbia. Clemson hopes the success from Friday’s game carries over to Game 2.
“It’s a rivalry. It is a three-game series. We are pretty much playing another away game tomorrow, here in Columbia, so we are going to lock back in,” Weatherly said. “We are going to do what we do and try to win Game 2 tomorrow.”
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