Opportunity lost

COLUMBIA - Sunday's season ending loss to Liberty was a microcosm of Clemson's 2013 season.

Box Score

A 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Flames [36-28] knocked the Tigers [40-22] out of the Columbia Regional, thus ending this year's quest for a return trip to Omaha.

There were plenty of opportunities to potentially setup an matchup with host South Carolina. Seven Clemson base runners were left stranded in scoring position. Leadoff hitters reached base in each of the first five innings, and again in the ninth.

Yet the Tigers managed to scratch across just a single run.

"We just couldn't come up with the big hit today. I think that was the story of it," Jack Leggett said.

That trend became all too familiar to Leggett during his 20th season as head coach.

"I really think if I had to pinpoint the one thing through the course of the year that was probably our Achilles heel," he said.

Garrett Boulware, who had the Tigers' only hit with a runner in scoring position, went 3-for-4. His fourth inning single up the middle scored Steven Duggar from second and gave Clemson a 1-0 lead.

The inning had all the makings of a big one.

Following Boulware's single, Shane Kennedy reached on an error by Liberty third baseman Jake Kimble. Each moved up a base on a wild-pitch with Tyler Krieger at the plate, but he would line out to second for the inning's first out.

The Tigers' fourth ended with Joe Costigan line drive to second. Because he wasn't sure if the ball was fielded in the air, Bryan Aanderud threw home to cut down Boulware, who then darted back to the bag.

Once catcher Trey Wimmer chased Boulware back to third, Duggar was standing on the base.

Confused on the proper ruling of the play, the four umpires met to discuss the ruling. Costigan was called out on the hit. One of the runners at the bag was ruled out.

Liberty head coach Jim Toman wasn't sure what to make of the play.

"I asked [Aanderud] when he came in," Toman said.

"I said, ‘Did you catch it?'

"He said, ‘I don't know.'

"I was like, ‘If you don't now, then how does the umpire know?'

"He said, ‘I thought I got my glove under it, but there was a lot of dirt in my glove.'

"[Aanderud] did not know if he caught the ball or not."

Neither did Boulware.

"I thought it went up the middle," he said. "I was having trouble seeing, because it was so bright. It was hard to track the ball. I was trying to find it. Then I saw it. It was kind of a confusing play, to be honest."

Liberty would go on to take a 2-1 lead in the bottom half of the inning after Matthew Crownover gave up back-to-back to the first two batters. Aanderud drove them in with a single to left.

"Obviously, it was a very tough loss for us," Leggett said. "Anytime you end the season, whether it's here, the Super Regional, Omaha, wherever it might be, it's like a runaway train coming to a stop. It hurts."

Crownover, who was had been hurt since the FSU series, started on the mound for Clemson. In his four innings of work, he gave up five hits and two runs and was charged with the loss.

The Tigers first reliever, Clate Schmidt, gave up a run in the fifth when Wimmer hit a sacrifice fly to center. Patrick Andrews pitched the final three frames and allowed just one Liberty hitter to reach base.

"We'll rebound and get ready to play next year. We'll be back. We've got a lot of good things ahead of us," Leggett said.

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