Tigers salvage series

CLEMSON - For the first time in 10 months, the South Carolina Gamecocks have a taste of defeat - to their bitter arch-rival no less. Clemson salvaged the series and snapped the Gamecocks' 19-game winning streak with a 6-5 comeback victory Sunday afternoon at a blustery Doug Kingsmore Stadium. USC's last loss came against Georgia in the SEC Tournament last May.

The loss puts a small damper on South Carolina's big weekend, despite clinching the series 2-1 Saturday in Columbia. The Gamecocks have won 16 of the last 23 games played between the two schools since 2007.

Clemson's Steve Wilkerson knocked in the game-winning RBI single in the ninth inning to score Jon McGibbon and assure the Tigers of avoiding their first sweep to Carolina since 2008.
Forrest Koumas took the loss, giving up three runs on three hits in the final 1.1 innings. Scott Firth earned the win for Clemson, allowing just one run in four innings pitched.

"They really outpitched us and did a better job offensively," said USC head coach Ray Tanner. "We will bounce back. We were in position to win today and maybe we didn't deserve to be. "We played hard and fought but they were a little bit better today."

Trailing 5-3 in the eighth inning, Clemson mounted its improbable rally. Tigers catcher Phil Pohl smacked a two-run homer over the centerfield wall to the tie game.

Carolina had the top of the order in the ninth inning but failed to scratch any runs, despite two base runners. Evan Marzilli led the frame with a single but couldn't advance on Tanner English's popped up sacrifice bunt attempt to the pitcher. Christian Walker reached on an infield error but Clemson stemmed the scoring threat on pinch hitter Kyle Martin's groundout to the mound.

With the right field flags flapping steadily, Clemson made the most of its opportunities and prevented a second extra innings affair. The No. 9 hitter Jon McGibbon sliced a lead-off single to center field, followed by Thomas Brittle's sacrifice bunt. That was all Wilkerson needed to knock in the winning run and send the mostly orange and purple clad of 6,039 into a frenzy as the Clemson dugout poured onto the field.

It was a disappointing finish for the Gamecocks, who were six outs away from a rare series sweep. In a game that saw a combined seven errors and stressful windy conditions for both teams, the Gamecocks built a 4-0 lead but never had a full command on the game.

USC jumped ahead early with a four run second inning, capitalized on a pair of Clemson infield errors. Adam Matthews drove in LB Dantzler on a RBI single to left. Freshman Grayson Greiner then blasted his first career home run into the grandstand seats in left field, scoring three additional runs.

Matthews was named the MVP for South Carolina in the weekend series and earned the prestigious Tom Price Award.

"It's a great honor," the senior right fielder said. "It's one thing to be a part of this series and it's another thing to do well in it. I hate that it turned out the way it did today but Clemson is a good team and we've got to learn from this and move on."

The Tigers responded in the bottom frame, loaded the bases but scoring just one run. Clemson kept clawing in the third, scoring on Richie Shaffer's solo shot and Joe Costigan's RBI single. Shaffer was named the MVP for Clemson in the series and earned the Bob Bradley Award. Through three innings, the Tigers outhit USC 6-3.

Greiner, who went hitless Friday against Clemson, belted his second homer in the sixth inning to push USC ahead 5-3.

The South Carolina pitching staff combined for five strikeouts and seven walks. Starter Colby Holmes went just 3.2 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits. Tyler Webb and Ethan Carter also saw time on the mound, limited Clemson to just two other hits.

Chase Vergason Greiner and Matthews all had two hits. The Gamecocks totaled nine hits and nine strikeouts in the losing effort.

South Carolina (9-1) returns home Wednesday in a 7 p.m. game against UNC Asheville. The Gamecocks will host Princeton next weekend in a three-game series, beginning Friday.

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