Clemson faced adversity with its back against the wall, and down a run, to rival South Carolina in the seventh inning on Sunday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
But the Tigers bounced back with a breakthrough seventh inning to claim the 5-2 victory and a fifth series win in the last six seasons over their in-state rival.
In the sixth inning, Clemson (9-2) squandered an opportunity to take control of the game with the bases loaded and no outs. South Carolina got out of the inning without allowing a run thanks to a double play as a result of replay.
However, the Tigers did not get caught up in the emotions of a missed opportunity and responded with four runs on four hits to claim a 5-2 lead that they held for the rest of the contest.
Clemson head coach Monte Lee told members of the media after the game he was proud of the way his team responded to adversity and played through the last third of the contest.
“I’m really proud of our guys for winning the last nine outs of the ballgame because we preach and preach, and we did that,” Lee said.
In the sixth inning the Tigers loaded the bases after a lead-off single from Bryar Hawkins, James Parker reached on a walk and Adam Hackenberg reached on a single. Then Dylan Brewer hit a flair to left field that looked to be the first out before Andrew Eyster dropped it, that is when it got confusing.
The runners all retreated to their bases to tag up on what looked to be a fly-ball out. When everybody realized the ball was in play Hawkins was thrown out at home plate for the first out. Then South Carolina head coach Mark Kingston asked for a review to see if any runners passed each other for a second out.
The official review determined Brewer passed Hackenberg at first base and Brewer accounted for the second out. Sam Hall ended the inning by striking out swinging for the third out.
Most teams would be disappointed with a missed opportunity that late in the game. But sophomore James Parker told The Clemson Insider they had to keep moving forward into the next frame.
“It would’ve been awesome to score there but you have to take it for what it’s worth. If you hold that against you it will lead to negative things thereafter,” Parker said. “Going into the seventh inning we had to get momentum because we started to get it and they got it right back by holding us without a run.”
In the bottom of the seventh, Elijah Henderson sparked the Tigers with a one-out single and Kier Meredith followed suit with another single to put two on with one out. After a South Carolina pitching change Davis Sharpe was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Then, for the second time on the afternoon, Hawkins flew out to center field and scored Henderson to tie the game at two.
Parker followed to give Clemson a 4-2 lead on the following at-bat with a two-RBI double to right center that scored both Meredith and Sharpe. Adam Hackenberg continued the two-out surge with a single that scored Parker on an incredible head-first slide barely beating the tag at the plate and gave the Tigers a 5-2 advantage.
“I’m proud of our guys for not letting the sixth inning affect us in a negative way and we didn’t lose any energy in the dugout, on offense or on defense,” Lee said. “The seventh inning is when we broke it open and we pitched extremely well for the last nine outs of the ball game, that was the difference in the ball game. You could certainly be let down and disappointed after the sixth inning we had, but we responded the way we did in the seventh.”
The Tigers return to action on Wednesday as they host the College of Charleston at 4 p.m., at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
Clemson baseball is back. Get your official Clemson gear right here!