Notre Dame takes weekend series, 2-1
Other than giving up a solo home run to Clemson’s Caden Grice in the bottom of the sixth inning, Notre Dame pitcher Liam Simon was nearly untouchable in the four innings he pitched Sunday.
Coming into the decisive game, when the Tigers had two runners on and two outs, Simon struck out James Parker, Clemson’s best hitter, to end the threat. From there, he fanned seven more Tigers in leading Notre Dame to a 3-2 victory at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson.
With the win, the Irish captured the weekend series, 2-1, as they beat Clemson on Saturday as well.
“Give Notre Dame credit. They found a way to get it done today,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. “We certainly had our opportunities on offense early in the ballgame when we got one run in the second. We had bases loaded and nobody out and we hit into a double play.
“We had another opportunity in the fifth with runners at second and third with one out and we came up empty there. We fought our way back in the ninth inning, got a couple of guys on base, but came up short.”
Simon was the saving grace in a game that saw both teams struggle with control issues on the mound. In all, both pitching staffs combined to walk 12 batters and hit six more.
But all Simon did was throw strikes when he was in the game. The righty threw 38 strikes on 57 pitches. He allowed just three base runners and gave up just two hits in earning the win. Both hits came off Grice’s bat, who led off the ninth inning with a base hit to right field.
“They have some really good arms. Simon, the guy got up to 93 or 94 mph with a power slider,” Lee said. “He is just tough to hit. He is a good reliever… He is a power righty with a good breaking ball.”
After tying the game in the top of the fifth inning, the Irish (4-2, 4-2 ACC) got two runs in the sixth when Carter Putz doubled off the wall in left centerfield to bring home two runners for a 3-1 lead at the time.
Geoffrey Gilbert came on after that and quieted the Notre Dame bats. The lefty threw three scoreless innings and allowed just two hits to keep the Tigers in the game.
Clemson (5-4, 1-2 ACC) took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning when it loaded the bases on two drawn walks and a hit batter. Third baseman Max Wagner then hit into a double play at short to score Grice from third base. Grice led off the top of the inning with a walk.
Grice later scored the Tigers’ second-run of the afternoon when he took Simon’s 2-2 pitch to straightaway center in the bottom of the sixth inning. The home run, Grice’s fourth of the week, cut the Notre Dame lead to 3-2.
From there, Simon dominated the next three innings. Jack Brannigan came on with two runners on, including the tying run at third, and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to earn the save.
Grice finished the game 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. The freshman had four home runs this week for the Tigers, which now leads the team.
“It seems like his strike zone discipline is getting better and better,” Lee said. “He is doing a good job of laying off of pitches that he does not hit well. He is patient at the plate. He will take a walk. He will kind of wait out an at-bat until he gets a pitch he can drive.
“So, he is doing a really good job of staying in the strike zone and he is also playing very well defensively at first base for us.”
Clemson will be back in acton on Tuesday when it hosts USC-Upstate at 4 p.m.
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