COLUMBIA — There was no doubt the story from Clemson’s 7-1 victory over rival South Carolina on Friday was the performance of pitcher Sam Weatherly.
The Tigers’ lefty overpowered the Gamecocks all night at Founders Pak in Columbia, as he held them hitless through seven innings before being pulled after throwing 104 pitches. Weatherly struck out 11 South Carolina batters in earning his second win of the year in three starts.
“I wanted to throw strikes. I wanted to pound the zone,” Weatherly said. “That is always my goal and something I have been working on throughout the season. I thought their approaches were good. I thought they took good swings. I just happened to be a little bit better tonight.”
But as good as Weatherly pitched, the Clemson offense matched his performance by having, without a doubt, its best outing of the season. Its seven runs were a season high.
The Tigers (8-1) tallied 11 hits, including a 4-for-5 night from Kier Meredith and a 2-for-4 effort from Dylan Brewer. Meredith and Brewer also recorded two run home runs, along with designated hitter Davis Sharpe, who took a two-run homer over the left centerfield wall in the top of the fifth inning.
Brewer’s two-run homer proved to be the game winner in the fourth inning, while Meredith’s shot went over the South Carolina bullpen in the sixth inning. Clemson also got an RBI single from Bryar Hawkins in the top of the seventh inning.
Hawkins RBI gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead at the time.
“This builds a lot of confidence, especially with our team,” Weatherly said. “The word around town has been that our guys can’t hit, and our pitchers have been carrying our team. I think, our guys did a good job tonight showing that we can compete, and we can hit. So, going forward, this just gives a lot of confidence for the team overall.”
Clemson hit South Carolina starter Carmen Mlodzinski’s stuff all night. The six runs and 10 hits he was charged with were both career-highs for the righty, who is projected as a first-round pick in this summer’s MLB Draft.
“Tonight, was huge,” Meredith said. “Like I told you guys last week, I felt like the offense was about to explode or was on the verge of exploding. We have been putting together good at-bats all year, and tonight showed us what we could really do.”
Clemson head coach Monte Lee said the key to the Tigers’ success in Game 1 of the three-game series this weekend was their ability to stay focused on winning the innings and not getting too wrapped up in all the emotions of the rivalry and big plays.
“We really just tried to focus on the present, stayed relaxed and just competed,” Lee said. “I felt like our guys did a good job of maintaining their emotions.”
The Tigers will attempt to maintain their emotions in Game 2 this afternoon at Segra Park in Columbia. First pitch is set for 3 p.m.
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