The win broke a three-game losing streak at Cullowhee for Clemson and Head Coach Jack Leggett, who coached at Western Carolina from 1983-1991. The trio of Baker, Khalil Greene and Michael Johnson combined for four home runs as Clemson pulled away with seven runs in the ninth. The Tigers improved to 44-9 while the Catamounts dropped to 31-20.
The Tigers wasted no time getting on the board in the first. Kyle Frank singled and Khalil Greene followed with a two-run bomb to left field, his 18th homer of the season, that put Clemson up 2-0 and extended Greene's hitting streak to 19 games. L.J. DeMaino hit his team-leading fifth triple of the year in the second inning to score David Slevin and Frank followed with an RBI-double to push the advantage to 4-0.
Western Carolina got one run back in the bottom of the second when Alan Beck doubled in Todd Buchanan. The Catamounts began the third inning as they did the second with a walk and a double that put runners on second and third with no outs. After a Donovan Minero walked, Buchanan plated one run on a fielder's choice. Clemson starter Steven Jackson then induced a 6-4-3 double play to escape the inning with minimal damage.
Jackson put the first two runners of the inning on again in the fourth inning and yielded one run before being relieved by Jeff Hahn. Hahn then yielded a two-strike, two-out single to Chris Davis that scored Clint Ramsey and evened the game at four.
Jeff Baker nearly set the home run record in the sixth inning when he hit a high fly ball to right field. His potential homer was taken away by Catamount rightfielder Alex Gary, who leaped at the wall to make the catch. The putout came in the midst of nine straight batters retired by Burton. The West Oak High School graduate kept the Tiger batters hitless from the third inning until the eighth inning.
Baker did break the record in the eighth inning. He took Burton's 2-1 pitch over the the 390 sign in center field for his 20th long ball of the season and 54th of his career. He also became the first Tiger in history to hit at least 20 home runs in two different seasons. Western Carolina threatened in the eighth inning with runners at first and second with one out, but pitcher Jeff Hourigan and the Clemson defense did not allow a run. The Catamounts went 2-15 with runners in scoring position on the day.
Clemson added seven insurance runs in the ninth inning with all of the runs coming with two outs. DeMaino's RBI-single through the right side started things and after a throwing error allowed Steve Pyzik to score, Frank came through with an RBI-single to right. Greene and Johnson then put an exclamation mark on the victory with two-run homers that made the final margin 12-4.
Hahn (2-0) earned the win by pitching scoreless 3.1 innings, allowing only four hits while striking out two and walking two. Burton (7-5), the Catamounts' number one starter, threw 140 pitches over 8.2 innings but got the loss for Western Carolina.
Greene broke his third record in three games with five at-bats on Wednesday, setting a new Clemson career record of 996 at-bats. Frank's three hits topped the team as Greene, DeMaino and Baker all had two hits apiece for the Tigers.
The Tigers will next host second-ranked Florida State this weekend in a pivotal three-game set. First pitch on Friday is set for 7:15 PM.
Tigers Crush Catamounts
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