Tigers Lose to Elon; Gamecocks Up Next

CLEMSON – It's generally not a good sign when five pitchers are used just to stay close to a team that is average at best. It's even more troublesome when it happens on the eve of playing your biggest rival.

For one of the few times this season, Clemson's pitching fell apart and the bats were on fire. And in the end, Elon hit its way to a 13-12 victory over the struggling No. 19 Tigers Tuesday night at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

The Phoenix pounded out 12 hits, with five of them and six runs coming against starter P.J. Zocchi, who lasted only three innings. He also had four walks.

Zocchi has definitely seen his pitching woes reach an all-time high. He is a mere shadow of the way he threw last year.

"He's not pitching with much confidence," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "He's been pitching from behind in the count."

Because of his inability to go long, the Tigers were forced to trot pitcher after pitcher onto the mound, including Matt Vaughn, who may have been tabbed to get the start against No. 9 South Carolina (32-10) Wednesday.

Now, it looks like it will be D.J. Mitchell, but only if center fielder Brad Chalk can manage to play through his back spasms.

If Mitchell has to play in the field, Matt Zoltak or Alan Farina will likely get the start.

"It's not what we had planned, trust me," Leggett said. "But it is what it is. We'll do what we can and try and piece something together. We just have to go to Plan B."

At this stage, Leggett is looking for anything to lift his team. The Tigers are just 2-5 over their last seven and are 0-3 against South Carolina this season.

The Gamecocks will be going for their first four game sweep of Clemson since 1985, when they went 6-0 in the head-to-head meetings.

"I'm not even thinking about that, to be honest with you," Leggett said. "We've just got to play better baseball and I hope it starts tomorrow. That's all I can consume myself with."

The situation would get a lot better for Leggett and the Tigers if they would start hitting with two outs and runners in scoring position. On the season, they're hitting just .221 in that situation.

In Clemson's last two games, it is a combined 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position with two outs.

"Obviously, losing sucks," said Clemson first baseman Andy D'Alessio, who hit his sixth home run of the season Tuesday night. "Losing is something, that if you're a competitor, is hard to deal with."

And that's why what happened against Elon (23-20) is such a bitter pill to swallow. The Tigers managed 12 runs and 13 hits of their own and still lost.

"It's a tough loss," D'Alessio said. "We were able to get some runs, but we weren't able to pitch like we have all year."

Besides D'Alessio, another hitting bright spot was that of catcher Doug Hogan, who hit two home runs, including a grand slam.

Every starter got a hit for Clemson, but it still wasn't enough, due in large part to the nine walks its pitchers gave up to the Phoenix.

Now, the Tigers have to find some way to put together enough pitchers Wednesday night to face hard-hitting South Carolina.

Besides Chalk, another game-time decision is that of left fielder Addison Johnson, who has a bad finger on his throwing hand. He can pinch hit, but not much else.

The odds are definitely stacked against the Tigers.

"Unfortunately, we've been on the losing end in three games against them," D'Alessio said. "You can't think about the past. You just have to go out there and play."

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