Gamecocks earn weekend sweep with another walk-off
COLUMBIA — Andrew Eyster hit a walk-off double for a second day in a row to beat rival Clemson. This time the outfielder did it with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, as No. 16 South Carolina beat the 22nd-ranked Tigers, 8-7, at Founders Park in Columbia.
Eyster hit a one-out double to right center field in the bottom of the 11th inning at Greenville’s Fluor Field on Saturday, which also scored Brady Allen with the game-winner.
The win allowed the Gamecocks to sweep the weekend and capture the season series, though they still have a date at Clemson set for May 11 after Friday’s game in Tigertown was postponed due to inclement weather.
“I have to give the Gamecocks credit. They played the better ballgame,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said after the game. “It was a back-and-forth ballgame. It was a tough one to lose. Obviously, a walk-off in the bottom of the ninth.
“But our guys competed and swung the bats well today. Just did not pitch as well as we would have liked out of the bullpen. The first two guys did not make a couple of plays there in the seventh inning that cost us. But good teams like South Carolina capitalize when you make mistakes and they came out on top today.”
For more than four innings Sunday, freshman Ty Olenchuk did his job. The righty from nearby Irmo, S.C., held South Carolina to two runs before he gave way to veteran Mat Clark with one out and a one-run lead in the fifth inning.
Unfortunately, Clark could not hold the lead as he first gave up two hits and then a three-run bomb to Wes Clark in a four-run fifth for the Gamecocks. Clarke finished with an almost perfect day, going 3-for-4 at the plate, with two home runs, four RBIs and a walk.
“It is very difficult to pitch to him,” Lee said. “I think, and I don’t know, I will have to look back at my notes, but I believe he came up every time with runners on base. So, there was not a whole lot to do outside of just pitching to him and trying to get him out.
“We were able to get ahead of him. We had him at two strikes in a couple of at-bats, but we just did not execute pitches with two strikes to him. I think that was the key and we were unable to put him away when we had him on the ropes.”
Olenchuk was dealing for a good part of Sunday’s game. He struck out six, walked none and allowed just four hits, as he had his favorite childhood team guessing for much of the two times he went through the order.
He did give up two solo home runs—one to Clarke in the third inning and one to Braylen Wimmer in the fifth—but the righty still pitched good enough to stake the Tigers to a 3-2 when he left the game with one out in the fifth inning.
After Wimmer’s home run to center field cut the Clemson lead to one run, 3-2, Olenchuk retired George Callil with a grounder to short. The freshman then gave the baseball to Clark.
However, Clark struggled to start his afternoon. Facing the top of the Gamecocks’ order, he gave up a bloop single to left field to Brady Allen and then Brennan Milone ripped a hit at to left as well.
Clarke, one of the top home run hitters in college baseball, then sent a 2-2 pitch over the fence in left center field. It was his seventh home of the season and his second on the afternoon.
The Clarke home run gave the Gamecocks a 5-3 lead through five innings.
Clemson (3-2) rallied to take back the lead in the top of the seventh inning. The Tigers did so by scoring four runs on three hits, including a two-run single to center field by Regan Reid with one out.
Reid’s single scored Jonathan French and James Parker, which gave the Tigers a 6-5 lead at the time. Max Wagner then drove in a run with a sac bunt fielder’s choice, scoring Alex Urban, who had earlier had an RBI single in the inning that brought Bryar Hawkins home.
Urban’s run gave Clemson a 7-5 lead. He led the Tigers with three hits in five at-bats, while Parker was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a double. Bryar Hawkins scored three runs.
But for the third time, the Gamecocks (6-0) came back. They answered Clemson’s four runs with two runs of their own on three hits in the bottom of the seventh.
David Mendam and Eyster delivered one-out RBI hits off Clemson reliever Rob Hughes to tie the game at 7-7. Clarke also had a single in the seventh and later scored for the third time.
Clemson took its first lead of the game in the top of the first inning as Hawkins drew a two-out walk and scored when Parker doubled to right center field.
Clarke tied the game, 1-1, in the third inning with a solo home run to center field.
But the Tigers responded in the top of the fifth inning as French doubled to right field, plating Brewer and Hawkins for a 3-1 lead.
Clemson will host East Tennessee State at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson on Tuesday. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.
Make sure you dress to impress and wear the latest Clemson gear.
Please stay safe and get your officially licensed Clemson gear right here!