When you score two early runs against South Carolina pitcher Matt Price, you have to make the Gamecocks pay. The Clemson Tigers scored those two runs off of Price in the second inning on a Jason Stolz single, but the lead was gone the next half inning as Carolina scored three runs in the second and three more in the third to lead the Gamecocks to a 9-6 win Saturday at Carolina Stadium to win the series and set up an attempt at a sweep Sunday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson. Carolina moves to 9-0 on the season, while the Tigers drop to 4-4.
"It was a great win for us," head coach Ray Tanner said. "I thought it was shaping up to be a game like yesterday. Dominique Leone started out and battled hard; Matt Price battled. They both exited and Jonathan Meyer comes in and he was tough for us and Evan Beal was tough on our side. We were fortunate to score a few runs and had a little room when Shaffer comes up to the plate. It was a good win for us today and I'm looking forward to going on the road tomorrow."
The game started 45 minutes late, not because of the severe weather that passed through Columbia overnight, but because the Tigers stayed in Charleston and got caught up in the line of storms that lingered across the coast all Saturday afternoon. While the game began late, the bats made their presence known early.
Clemson threatened right off the bat when Phil Pohl drew a leadoff walk in the second and Brad Felder followed Pohl with a double down the first base line.
"I felt good but I just got behind him. I felt great the whole outing but they're good hitters and they battled," Price said. "They fouled off balls and drove my pitch count up."
Price appeared to be primed to wiggle out of trouble after striking out Garrett Boulware and getting Dominic Attanasio to pop up to third. Senior Jason Stolz stepped in and hit a grounder up the middle and into center field to score both Pohl and Felder and give the Tigers a 2-0 lead. Clemson wasn't finished there, loading up the bases before Steve Wilkerson popped up to Joey Pankake in shallow left to end the inning.
Carolina would not take long to strike back. LB Dantzler led off the bottom of the third with a line drive shot over the wall in right field to quickly cut the lead to 2-1.
"It was just a 2-2 fastball. He left it over the plate," Dantzler said. "I had a pretty good feeling it was (gone) but I wasn't sure."
Kyle Martin singled to follow Dantzler and Joey Pankake walked. After Adam Matthews sacrificed the runners over, Dante Rosenberg stuck the bat out and poked one to second to score Martin and tie the game. Clemson starter Dominic Leone ran into control problems, hitting Chase Vergason, walking Even Marzilli, and hitting Tanner English to bring Pankake home from third and give Carolina the 3-2 lead.
"Once they scored and we came back, I just had to go out there and pitch like it was a 0-0 game," Price said. "I felt great out there and the team picked me up."
Carolina would tack on three more in the fourth. After Martin walked and Pankake legged out an infield hit on a hit-and-run, Matthews hit a bomb to dead center for a three-run homerun to give the Gamecocks a 6-2 lead.
"I saw a fastball and I got my hands out and foot down early," Matthews said. "I've been working on adjustments. I was getting beat inside and jammed, but it's finally coming together."
As with any good team, the Tigers were not going to go down easy. Clemson was the beneficiary of some errors in the fifth inning. Shaffer hit a one out double to the corner in left that scored Wilkerson from first as English had trouble scooping it up out of the corner. Shaffer advanced to third on a wild pitch by Price and scored on a Pohl grounder up the middle. Pankake's throw to first pulled Walker off the bag and allowed Pohl to reach. Tyler Webb came in for Price after the error to retire Felder and could have gotten out of the inning, but Pankake made his second error of the inning trying to get to a grounder off the bat of Boulware. Evan Beal came in to retire pinch-hitter Jay Baum to end the inning and Carolina held a 6-4 lead. Carolina struck back in the bottom half of the inning thanks to an error by Wilkerson at second that allowed Matthews to score from third.
Price left after 4.1 innings, giving up five hits, four earned runs, six strikeouts, two walks, and a hit batter in the no decision. Evan Beal worked 4 innings to pick up the win, the first of his career, after retiring the first nine batters he faced before a two-out single by pinch-hitter Joe Costigan in the eighth inning. Beal gave up just two runs on a two-run homerun by Richie Shaffer with two outs in the ninth. Nolan Belcher, who got the win in relief last night, recorded the final out.
"As a pitcher, confidence is key," Beal said. "I was throwing my slider in the zone and I had my curveball. It took me a little while to get going but once I did it was going well."
"Evan was a good recruit," Tanner said. "He was an 8th round draft pick. He's got two breaking balls and a fastball in the 80's. Sometimes it's tough for a hitter to pick it up."
Matthews was 2-for-4 with three RBI's and two runs, while Rosenberg, English, Walker, Dantzler, and Pankake each had one RBI. English, Dantzler and Martin also had two hits as well.
8,242 fans watched the game, joining the season opener as the only two sellouts so far in the 2012 season. It was also the 13th sellout in Carolina Stadium history.
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