Tigers Stunned by Western Carolina, 8-6

CLEMSON – Prior to the season, it was a given that pitching and defense were going to be the backbone of the Clemson baseball team. With every starting position players returning from a very good 2005 squad, defense was the least of the Tigers' worries.

That's why it's surprising that these very same players are making mistake after mistake. And the odd part is, when they happen, they happen in bunches. Last season, it was rare for errors to cost Clemson games because they usually occurred far apart, not all at once.

For the second time in a week, a multitude of miscues cost No. 7 Clemson a game it could have easily won as Western Carolina escaped with an 8-6 victory at Doug Kingsmore Stadium Tuesday night, snapping Clemson's four-game winning streak.

"We need to bare down and make the plays when we need to," said Clemson second baseman Taylor Harbin, who made a costly error in the seventh inning. "It just seems we're kind of lacking concentration on the plays we need to make.

"When the pitchers are struggling, we need to pick them up and we're not doing that right now."

Clemson sophomore shortstop Stan Widmann is one of the players struggling the most in the field right now. It seems that his errors, for whatever reason, happen at the most inopportune times.

He entered the game with eight errors and left with 10.

Widmann refused to speak to the media Tuesday night.

"I don't know how else to explain it," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said of his team's lack of concentration. "We're not making plays we're capable of making and that's disappointing because that's been our trademark."

Other Tigers finding the going tough are catcher Andy Casanova, who has nine errors in 27 games after committing only eight in 66 games last season, and third baseman Herman Demmink, who has eight errors after committing only 10 last year.

"We just need to be more consistent in everything we do," Leggett said.

It was an error, a passed ball and a balk that allowed the Catamounts (18-11) to score six runs in the second inning, which eventually propelled them to their first win at Clemson (20-8) since 1974. The Tigers are now 35-2 at home versus Western Carolina.

Had the Tigers taken care of business defensively in the second, starting pitcher Matt Vaughn (0-1), making his first-ever start, would have made it out of the second inning. "We just didn't make the plays for him," Harbin said. "That hurts us just as much as it hurts him. I'm kind of frustrated with myself right now. I'm not making plays I should have."

Clemson made a strong comeback by scoring four runs in the seventh as first baseman Andy D'Alessio and third baseman Marquez Smith each had two-run hits.

But that's all the Tigers would score.

"We didn't pitch and play any defense at all and we just caved in," Leggett said. "We got exactly what we deserved."

There's not much time to sulk as they take on No. 2 South Carolina Wednesday in Columbia.

Ryan Hinson (1-0, 1.86 ERA) is expected to make his first-career start for the Tigers.

"(We're ready to play), especially after tonight after coming off this," Harbin said. "We're going to have to really focus and play our best game of the year."

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