CLEMSON BEATS GAMECOCKS 5-2 FOR RARE 3-GAME SWEEP, IMPROVES TO 11-0
- 2022-03-07 20:58:56
CLEMSON, SC - It was a third straight day of beautiful baseball weather on Sunday in Clemson, and Doug Kingsmore Stadium saw its biggest crowd ever. 6,636 was the announced attendance, and that made the total attendance for the weekend 23,948! I can't remember the last time we had weather that nice for all 3 games of the Palmetto Series--certainly not since I started covering it in the media in 2016. The Tigers came into the game with all the momentum, hoping for a sweep with their home crowd behind them. Nick Clayton was the Saturday starter on the mound for the Tigers in their first two weekend series of 2022, but Monte decided he might need the benefit of the home crowd rather than pitching in Columbia, so he stated Hoffmann on Saturday and Clayton on Sunday. The move sure did pay off because Hoffmann was outstanding in Columbia, and Clayton enjoyed his best outing of the season.
The Tigers needed Clayton to keep momentum on their side because it would take a while for their bats warm up. With a scoreless game in the bottom of the 4th, the Tigers' offense finally got going. After Hawkins led off the inning with a single and Wagner reached on an error, Monte had Fairey lay down a sac bunt to move them to 2nd and 3rd. We've already seen much more willingness to play small ball from Monte this season than in the past, and he would sac bunt again later in the game. It paid off in the 4th because French was walked on 4 pitches to load the bases, and Blackwell was hit by a pitch to put the Tigers up 1-0. Leadoff man Brewer followed that with a single to score 2 more runs and give Clayton a nice 3-0 cushion. Unfortunately, Clayton would come up one out short of finishing the 5th and getting his first win of the season. He gave up a one-out walk on full count, and then with 2 outs and a man on 1st, Monte brought Edmondson in from the pen. Personally, I would have given Clayton one more batter to see if he could get the third out and the decision. Instead, Edmondson gave up back-to-back singles for a run to make it 3-1. The next inning, Edmondson walked the first two batters, and Monte brought Lindley in from the pen. The Gamecocks sac bunted the runners to 2nd and 3rd, and Lindley gave up a single to make it 3-2. The Tigers were lucky that the runner on 2nd was not very fast and also playing hurt, or it would have been a tie game at that point. Lindley bounced back to get a huge strike out and then a grounder to end the inning with the Tigers still up a run.
Cooper Ingle, who Monte Lee called the best hitter in the nation on Tuesday, led off the 8th with his 10-game hit streak in jeopardy. He extended it to 11 games in style, with his first career HR and a much-needed insurance run, giving the Tigers a 4-2 lead. After Wagner walked on full count and stole 2nd, French drove him in with a 2-out RBI single to put the Tigers up 5-2. I don't know why French hits so well in the 8th inning, but this was the third game of the week in which he came up with a big run-scoring hit in the 8th! He led off the 8th with a homer on Tuesday to break the tie with Upstate, and he tied the Gamecocks with a homer in the 8th on Friday. As it would turn out, the Tigers didn't need the insurance, but the Gamecocks did put 2 runners on base in the 9th, so there would have been much more pressure if the game had been 3-2 or even 4-2. Closer Ryan Ammons went 1-2-3 in the 8th and struck out a couple in the 9th on his way to his 4th save of the season.
Bryar Hawkins won the Bob Bradley Award for Clemson MVP of the Palmetto Series. Remarkably, it's the first time the Tigers have swept the Gamecocks in 3 or more games since 1996 when I was an undergrad! That just goes to show you how competitive this series has been and why it's arguably the best rivalry in college baseball. A couple others are up there like Miami and FSU, but this one is certainly the best non-conference rivalry in the game with the most history and intensity. The Tigers are 11-0 for the first time in 20 years, and I expect them to crack the rankings this week even though they didn't even get any votes last week. There are very few undefeated teams left, and sweeping the Gamecocks with 2 games in Columbia is pretty impressive, even if the Gamecocks aren't as good as they've been in the past. Wins over College of Charleston and Upstate are also impressive, and scoring 41 runs in 2 games against Harford is amazing, regardless of the opponent. The Tigers' pitching has been as impressive as their hitting. The Gamecocks' Andrew Eyster was one of the hottest hitters in the nation going into the weekend, batting over .500 with 3 HR's and 17 RBI's in 8 games, and he had walk-off hits in both of their wins against the Tigers last season. However, the Tigers' pitchers went right after him, and he went 0-9 in the series with 2 K's and just a sac fly RBI! Who knows, maybe it's finally in the cards for Monte to take a team to Omaha! It's still very early, and I want to see them play a couple of the better teams in the ACC before I'd feel comfortable talking Omaha, but this does feel like a special team.
Post-game interviews are below!
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