Playing for its postseason life Thursday night, Clemson did something it could not really afford to do in Game 1 of its three game series against Duke. It lost.
Thanks to a strong pitching performance from Duke starter Jack Carey, the Blue Devils dropped Clemson into a tie for 10th place with Virginia Tech in the ACC standings.
The Tigers and Hokies both fell to 16-18 in ACC play. Most feel Clemson needs to win the series over Duke to make the NCAA Tournament. Carey made sure the Tigers will have to do it when he is not on the mound.
The righty was in total command in Duke’s 5-1 victory at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson. He gave up just one run on four hits in seven innings of work, while striking out nine batters with no walks.
“Their starting pitcher did an outstanding job tonight, quite honestly,” Clemson head coach Monte Lee said afterwards. “He was the difference in the ballgame. He really did a good job of executing pitches and we just did not do a good enough job of swinging the bat.
“Quite honestly, we took way too many pitches on the outside corners–fastball and slider away from us. If you look at our hits, all four of our hits we hit the ball the other way where we did a good job in those at-bats staying on pitches and just using the whole field.”
The Tigers’ lone run came in the bottom of the fourth when Blake Wright flied out to right field to score James Parker, who singled to right to lead off the inning.
Clemson (24-24, 16-18 ACC) could do nothing on Carey after the fourth. He retired the last 11 batters he faced. Carey ended each of the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings with strikeouts. As a pitching staff, Duke retired the last 17 Clemson batters.
Mack Anglin was the hard-luck loser on the mound for the Tigers, though he pitched well enough to win the game. The Clemson starter allowed just five hits in 6 2/3 innings. Three of the five runs were charged to him.
However, Duke (26-20, 14-17 ACC) took advantage of three Anglin mistakes to get the win. Joey Loperfido was hit by a pitch to lead off the game and later scored with two outs thanks to a wild pitch.
First baseman Chris Crabtree took a first-pitch offering from Anglin down the right field line to lead off the second inning. The solo home run gave the Blue Devils a 2-0 lead at the time.
After the Tigers cut the lead 2-1 on Wright’s sacrifice fly to score Parker in the bottom of the fourth, Crabtree homered again on a first-pitch offering from Anglin, this time with two outs in the top of the sixth inning to center field.
Duke secured the victory in the top of the ninth inning when Loperfido hit a two-run homer to left field with two outs off Clemson reliever Nick Clayton.
Clemson will attempt to even the three-game series on Friday. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. It is a game the Tigers have to win to keep their postseason hopes alive.
“It’s critical. It is the biggest game of the season. There is no doubt about it,” Lee said. “We have to win this game to get back into the series. To win the series we have to win tomorrow.
“Again, I think our guys know it is a huge game for us tomorrow.”
—photo courtesy Clemson Athletics Communications
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