Clemson lost its third straight game 12-2 to USC Upstate on Tuesday night at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
The Tigers gave up a five spot in the top of the second and eight hits in the first two innings as Upstate built a lead early by taking advantage of mistakes in the field and stringing hits together.
Clemson (5-5) has now lost three straight and five of its last seven contests. Caden Grice got his first loss after one plus innings allowing six hits, five runs and striking out one.
Head coach Monte Lee credited the Spartans and felt stranding runners in scoring position was a major difference in the game.
“I give USC Upstate credit tonight, they really kicked our butt. They did a great job of putting the ball in play and hitting a lot of line drives,” Lee said after the game. “We got behind early and had some opportunities but we failed to produce with runners in scoring position.”
In the top of the first USC Upstate got it rolling early with three straight two-out singles to take a 1-0 lead. Cameron MacIntosh plated the run with a single that brought Devin Buckner to the plate to give the Spartans the early advantage.
The Spartans (10-0) continued to pour it on in the second with a five-run frame. Grice loaded up the bases with no outs after a hit batter and back-to-back singles before Jason Matthews doubled on a hot ball under Blake Wright’s glove at third to give Upstate a 3-0 lead.
Clemson brought in Evan Estridge in relief with no outs and runners on second and third. Clemson’s fielding woes continued when Wright fielded a ball at third and dove for the lead runner to no avail to load the bases again. Estridge got the first out of the inning and struck out Buckner.
Jack Gallagher delivered for the Spartans with a base clearing double to the wall in center that scored three and gave USC Upstate a 6-0 lead.
The Tigers finally stopped the bleeding when Brady Garrison flew out to left field and J.D. Brock gunned down Gallagher at the plate to end the inning on a double play. The Spartans racked up five runs on five hits to create an insurmountable 6-0 gap in the second.
Despite allowing a pair of runs to score Estridge had a solid relief appearance, he allowed four hits, two runs (one earned), and struck out one in five innings.
As an upperclassman Estridge feels this team has an opportunity to turn things around.
“We have complete faith we can turn it around,” Estridge said. “The first ten games are not the end of the world, it does stink to be 5-5 and that’s not the goal. But we all know we are better than that.”
Clemson got a run back in the bottom of the second on a one-run single by J.D. Brock that scored Grice and cut the deficit to 6-1.
Upstate added another run in the top of the sixth on a sacrifice fly to center by Jack Hennessy that scored Chase Matheny and pushed the Spartan lead to 7-1.
In the bottom of the seventh the Tigers loaded the bases with one out and scored a run on a sacrifice fly to center by Dylan Brewer that scored Elijah Henderson and cut the score to 7-2.
In the top of the ninth Upstate made matters worse with five runs before Clemson could record an out. Two Tiger errors, a hit batter and a walk loaded the bases before Buckner hit a one-run infield single to make it 8-2. Gallagher followed with a grand slam that pushed the lead to 12-2.
Lee feels the team has a good opportunity to gel this weekend with a big test in Chapel Hill.
“When you get on the buses and go on the road sometimes it can be really good for your team culture,” Lee said. “It brings guys together and you do everything together which can be a good thing for us.”
Clemson continues ACC play on the road in a three game series at North Carolina on Friday at 6 p.m.
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