COLUMBIA — Playing at a “neutral” site did not work out too well for Clemson in Game 2 of its three-game series against rival South Carolina on Saturday.
Though the Tigers were the designated home team Saturday at Segra Park in Columbia, it was clear the hometown Gamecocks had a pro crowd and it was obvious they feed off it. USC evened the series with Clemson with an 8-5 victory in front of 8,986 people.
“They threw the ball very well today. Their starter was good. Their bullpen was good,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “We did not square up a lot of balls. We put some balls in play. We did not square up enough baseballs today with runners on base.”
The rubber match of the series will be Sunday at Clemson’s Doug Kingsmore Stadium. First pitch is set for 2 p.m. Clemson won Game 1, 7-1, Friday night at Founders Park in Columbia.
South Carolina’s got two hits and three RBIs from Jeff Heinrich, while Wes Clarke had a home run in the fourth inning and Brady Allen drove in a run in the seventh. The Gamecocks’ seven runs were the most Clemson pitching has allowed this year.
The Gamecocks (7-3) got two runs in the second inning, two more in the fourth inning, two in the seventh and one in the eighth and ninth each. They finished the game with 12 hits.
“I give their offense credit, when they got a lead off man on base they did a good job of finding ways to get runners home,” Lee said. “They got runners on, runners over and runners in it seemed like every time they got the lead-off man on base they scored.”
While USC was hitting the ball, the Tigers did little at the plate, especially at the top of the order. Elijah Henderson, Kier Meredith, Davis Sharpe and James Parker combined to go 3-for-15 at the plate on Saturday.
Clemson (8-2) got just five hits with Meredith leading the way with a 2-for-5 afternoon. He scored twice. Sharpe finished the afternoon with four RBIs.
South Carolina starter Thomas Farr earned the win. The righty went five innings, giving up two runs on two hits, while striking out three batters.
Sharpe suffered the loss for Clemson on the mound. The Gamecocks ran him off with one out in the fourth inning. The sophomore gave four earned runs on six hits. The four runs were the first he has allowed in his three starts this season.
“I just think I did not get ahead of hitters,” Sharpe said. “They were just hitting fastballs when I do that and when you are looking for a fastball on a 2-0 count, you get a hit.
“I was just not landing enough curve balls. I just did not have the right stuff today.”
Carter Raffield did quiet USC for a bit, pitching 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
Sharpe hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning with two outs, cutting the Gamecocks lead to 7-4. Meredith kept the inning alive with two-out hit and then Sharpe landed his home run, after it went over the wall, in left field.
Clemson manufactured a run in the bottom of the fourth inning to pull within 4-2.
James Parker reached to lead off the inning thanks to an error by South Carolina shortstop George Callil. Then pitcher Thomas Farr threw two wild pitches to get Parker to third base and later scored when Adam Hackenberg grounded out to shortstop with no outs.
The Tigers grabbed the lead briefly in the bottom of the first inning. Sharpe helped his own cause when he drove Henderson home with a ground ball to second base. Henderson led off the inning with a walk and then moved to second thanks to a base hit from Kier Meredith on the next at-bat.
Both Henderson and Meredith moved up after a wild pitch from South Carolina starter Thomas Farr. Henderson then scored on Sharpe’s grounder to second base for the first out of the inning. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they could not pick up Meredith as he was stranded at third base.
The Tigers loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, but they were only got one run in as Meredith ended the game with a fly ball to left field for the final out.
“We did a good job of trying to make it interesting there at the end of the ballgame,” Lee said. “We got some runners on base and had an opportunity to cut the lead even more, but I have to give their pitching credit. They threw the ball very well today.”