Tigers fall at Charlotte

Zane Williams' two-out, three-run double in the eighth inning lifted Charlotte to an 11-10 victory over No. 7 Clemson in front of 1,832 fans at Robert & Mariam Hayes Stadium on Tuesday.

The 49ers improved to 8-4, while the Tigers fell to 13-2. It was the first meeting between the two teams in Charlotte since 1988.

The Tigers fell behind 5-0 when Charlotte scored five runs in the second inning. But Clemson stormed back with five runs of its own in the fourth inning. Then with Charlotte ahead 8-6, Clemson scored four runs in the top of the eighth inning, highlighted by John Hinson's three-run homer with two outs, to take a two-run lead. But Williams' came through with a bases-clearing double with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning to end Clemson's five-game winning streak.

Charlotte reliever Patrick Lawson (1-0), the last of six 49er hurlers, earned the win. He allowed two hits, four runs (none earned), and three walks with three strikeouts in 2.0 innings pitched.

Tiger reliever Tomas Cruz (1-2) suffered the loss, as the only batter he allowed to reach base (on a hit-by-pitch) scored the winning run. Kevin Brady came out of the bullpen and pitched 5.0 strong innings. He allowed just four hits with a career-high eight strikeouts.

The 49ers took the game's first lead in the second inning with five runs thanks in part to four two-out hits. Williams reached on a one-out walk and went to third on Mike Perkins' single through the right side on a 1-2 pitch. Justin Roland followed with a potential inning-ending, double-play grounder to second that would have kept the game scoreless. Mike Freeman fielded the ball and tagged Perkins, but he fumbled the ball trying to get it out of his glove, allowing Roland to reach and Williams to score. After Shane Basen singled up the middle, Justin Wilson singled through the left side to score Roland. Cory Tilton doubled Charlotte's lead when he hit a triple to right-center on a 2-2 pitch to plate Basen and Wilson. After Shane Brown walked, Ryan Rivers gave Charlotte a 5-0 lead when he followed with a single through the left side on a 2-2 pitch to plate Tilton.

The Tigers answered with five runs in the fourth inning to tie the score thanks to four two-out hits. Freeman hit a one-out single to left. Two batters later with two outs, Kyle Parker fouled off several two-strike pitches. Then on the 13th pitch of his at-bat, Parker blasted a 3-2 pitch over the left-field fence for a towering two-run homer, his seventh long ball of the season. After Wilson Boyd lined a double to right field on an 0-2 pitch, Charlotte native Richie Shaffer laced a single off the glove of third-baseman Kevin Gillespie to score Boyd, then Shaffer moved to second on the throw. Brad Miller followed with a single up the middle to score Shaffer and advanced to second on an error. Phil Pohl then tied the score when he grounded a double over the third-base bag to bring home Miller.

The 49ers regained the lead in the fifth inning. Brown led off with a walk on four pitches and advanced to third when Rivers grounded an 0-2 pitch through the right side for a single. Gillespie loaded the bases with no outs when he walked on a 3-2 pitch, then Williams walked on five pitches to score Brown. Two batters later with one out, Roland stayed alive when Pohl dropped a pop-up in foul territory. Roland then hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Rivers.

In the sixth inning, Parker, Boyd, and Shaffer led off with walks to load the bases with no outs, then Miller hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Parker. But the next two Tigers were retired, keeping the 49ers ahead 7-6.

The 49ers added to their lead in the seventh inning. Gillespie led off with a walk. Two batters later, Perkins lined a double to right field to advance Gillespie to third. Roland's line-drive single to center scored Gillespie, but Perkins was caught in a rundown between third and home and was tagged out.

In the top of the eighth inning, the Tigers went from two runs down to two runs ahead thanks to another clutch two-out hit. Parker led off with a walk, went to second on a balk, and moved to third when Boyd reached on an error. After Shaffer struck out and Miller walked to load the bases with one out, John Nester hit a line drive to right-center, but Tilton was shading him to that part of the field and made a leaping catch for out #2. However, Parker scored on the sacrifice fly to cut Charlotte's lead in half. Then on a 3-2 pitch, Hinson, who for the third straight game came off the bench and contributed to an eighth-inning rally to give Clemson the lead, blasted a three-run homer to right field. It was the Asheville, NC native's second home run of the season. It was also Clemson's only hit of the inning and its first since the fourth inning.

But the 49ers came right back and scored three runs to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. Wilson led off with an infield single and Tilton drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. Brown lined an 0-2 pitch to left field that Jeff Schaus short-hopped, but Wilson was caught in between and was retired at third base for out #1. Rivers loaded the bases when he was hit by a 3-2 pitch, then Gillespie popped up to short for out #2. But Williams came through with a three-run double past a diving Hinson down the left-field line to give the 49ers an 11-10 lead.

In the ninth inning, the first two Tigers were retired before Parker reached on a walk and Boyd hit an infield single. But Shaffer struck out to end the game.

Charlotte, who outhit the Tigers 11-9, was led by Wilson, Tilton, Rivers, and Perkins, who all had two hits apiece. Williams totaled a game-high four RBIs, while Roland added three RBIs.

Freeman and Boyd had two hits apiece for Clemson. Parker added a homer, three runs, two RBIs, and three walks, while Miller scored two runs and drove in two runs.

The two teams combined for 15 two-out RBIs in the game. Both teams walked eight times as well.

Clemson will return home to face Georgia Southern on Wednesday at 6:30 PM.

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