Clemson took advantage of a fielding and a throwing error to score two unearned runs, and West Virginia short-circuited its best offensive threat with a baserunning mistake as the Tigers evened the series at one game apiece on Saturday.
Things got off to a bad start for the Mountaineers in the bottom of the first, when left fielder Brad Johnson misplayed a routine single that allowed Clemson baserunner Tyler Krieger to score from first. Then, trailing 2-1, WVU reliever Jordan Sergent misfired on a throw to third that allowed Eli White to score another unearned run. It also extended the inning, and when Clemson produced a sacrifice fly, it led 4-1 with just two innings to play.
The Tigers got an excellent pitching effort from starter Zack Erwin, who yielded just one run on four hits and a walk. He struck out five WVU batters, as was part of an effort that saw 16 consecutive Mountaineers retired. WVU managed just a Shaun Wood sacrifice fly over the first eight innings and trailed 4-1 going to the top of the ninth.
Just when it appeared that Clemson would close out a routine win, WVU came alive. With one out, Jackson Cramer crushed a bomb to deep left center to cut the lead to 4-2, and when Justin Fox singled and Kyle Davis doubled, the Mountaineers had the tying run at second. At that point, though, another critical miscue occurred. K.C. Huth grounded to third, and Fox wandered too far off the bag, which allowed Clemson to hang him up and run him down for the second out. That was made all the more painful when Ray Guerrini was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Clemson relieved Drew Moyer got a strikeout to end the threat.
WVU starter Ross Vance turned in a respectable performance, but was victimized by the early unearned run. He completed five innings, allowing five hits and three walks, and yielded two runs, only one of which was earned. That was enough to tag him with the loss, however. The Mountaineers used five relievers behind Vance, partially in an attempt to get several newcomers their first collegiate work. Jeff Hardy had a 1-2-3 frame for WVU in the sixth.
Justin Fox continued his good start for the Mountaineers with a pair of hits, and was again the only Mountaineer with more than one. Taylor Munden, Brad Johnson and Davis had doubles for WVU.
The deciding game of the three-game series is set for 1:00 p.m. Sunday. Chad Donato is the scheduled starter for West Virginia.