Mack's homer helps USC knockoff Clemson 3-1
CLEMSON – Whoever said South Carolina wasn't going to hit for power this year must have forgotten to tell DeAngelo Mack.
The junior leftfielder hit a 380-foot solo home run to left-center in the top of the ninth inning to break a 1-1 tie, and the Gamecocks added another insurance run a few batters later as USC won its fifth straight over arch-rival Clemson 3-1.
"It was a fastball out over the plate. They tried to get me with some changeups early in the count and it stayed up and over and I just got a good swing on it," Mack said. "Yea, definitely one of the biggest home runs of my career. I'm pretty excited about it."
Carolina (4-0) waited out a near two hour rain delay before the first pitch at 3:51 p.m. However the wait proved to be worth it.
The Gamecocks wasted no time in jumping on the board as Whit Merrifield got the team's first hit with a triple on a ball that rolled to the wall between the left and center fielders. That triple was the second of Merrifield's career, with his other coming in his first game against Clemson (4-1) last season.
Carolina used that hit to score first as catcher Jeffrey Jones brought Merrifield in with a double for the 1-0 lead.
That advantage looked to be enough for starter Sam Dyson, who rolled through the first five innings allowing just one hit, a double in the fifth by Wilson Boyd.
Dyson retired eight of Clemson's first 11 batters to ground out before he recorded his first strikeout. While he did give up the hit to Boyd, it was sandwiched between four strikeouts looking to Tigers' batters.
"I thought he was very good. He's the kind of guy that can dominate at times with his fastball. He threw a few changeups over and got his slider over, but he had good stuff," Tanner said of Dyson's outing.
That's when things got a little rocky for Dyson as he got the first batter of the sixth inning to fly out to Mack in left but surrendered a solo home run to No. 9 hitter Matt Sanders, tying the game at 1-1. Though he walked the next hitter, Dyson managed to work his way out of the jam as he recorded two more ground ball outs to end the inning.
With the 1-1 tie still on the board, Dyson faced Kyle Parker at the top of the seventh inning and recorded his fifth strikeout of the day but was pulled from the game after having reached the 85 pitch limit put on him by the coaching staff. Tanner then turned to tomorrow's originally slated starter Nolan Belcher to come on in relief. But the freshman lefty's appearance was arguably the shortest of his career as he faced three batters and issued three walks with just one out to load the bases.
Enter senior reliever Alex Farotto.
The left hander wasted no time in stopping the Tiger threat as he got catcher John Nester to ground into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning and keep the 1-1 tie intact.
From there Farotto silenced the Clemson bats and allowed just one base runner in his 2 2/3 innings worth of work, helping him earn his first win of the season. Combined with Dyson, the two pitchers held Clemson to just two hits on the day while striking out seven batters, all of which were looking.
"They pitched well. Two hits is not going to get it done," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "We didn't have a leadoff man on base the whole night and it's tough to get something going offensively. We couldn't get anything bunting going, couldn't get any guys on base and that makes it difficult."
That effort set up the ninth inning drama as Parker Bangs popped out to third base sending Mack to the plate. Sitting on a full count, Mack pushed the ball just over the wall for the go-ahead run. Three sequential singles by Andrew Crisp, Justin Dalles and Bobby Haney scored the insurance run for the key road win.
Though the wind may have helped carry the ball over the fence, Mack wasn't sure nature was going to be enough help for his hit.
"I didn't think so at all. I thought it was a double at least, but I just kept running until I got the signal and started into my trot," Mack said.
In the last five meetings between the in-state rivals, Carolina has held Clemson to one or less runs, as USC has secured wins in eight of the last nine matchups between the two teams. For Tanner that success is something he attributes to good play and a few lucky rolls of the ball.
"I don't think you can say we're doing anything. I don't want to take any credit away from our guys, but we've had a bunch of close games. We played well a couple times last year, but today it could have gone either way," Tanner said. "We didn't give up a lot of hits, but they were in a position to win the game. Today we were very fortunate."
- Tanner will send junior right hander Blake Cooper to the hill for tomorrow's game in Columbia.
- The announced attendance of 4,917 was far lower than the actual crowd on hand, making the game one of the lowest attended Carolina-Clemson games since the 1980s.
- Through the first four games of the season, USC has had eight or more hits in every game.
- After a pitched sailed behind the head of Clemson batter Kyle Parker to start the second inning, home plate umpire A.J. Lostaglio had to settle both dugouts down. However, it wouldn't be the last time he would hear groaning from players as two Tiger batters and coach Leggett voiced their opinions on what they thought were botched calls. "He really didn't say anything to me. He was just getting on I guess both sides. He really didn't have any words for me, but it wasn't intentional so no worries," Dyson said.
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