CLEMSON — With a month left in the regular season, Clemson is still looking for a third ACC weekend starter.
Tuesday night, Justin Sarratt made his case for the job.
The fifth-year senior made his third straight impressive midweek start, handcuffing Furman in six shutout innings at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
Junior shortstop and All-America candidate Brad Miller did the rest, providing four RBI in the Tigers’ 5-0 whitewash of the Paladins.
Clemson improved to 26-14, winning for the 12th time in 14 games; the Tigers travel to Western Carolina Wednesday for a 6 p.m. game. Furman fell to 19-24; the teams will meet again May 10 at Fluor Field.
Clemson coach Jack Leggett said that Sarratt could start Sunday against Georgia Tech, provided he has recovered from Tuesday’s outing.
“That’d be good,” the soft-spoken Sarratt said. “The main goal is to just keep winning.”
Last weekend, sophomores Dominic Leone and Jonathan Meyer staked their claims to rotation spots with impressive efforts; Leone struck out 10 and allowed two Wake Forest hits over 8 1/3 innings. Saturday starter Scott Firth struggled, however, allowing three runs in two-plus innings while walking four and hitting a batter.
That could open the door for Sarratt. Tuesday marked his third straight midweek victory, following wins over Presbyterian and Georgia. He has allowed three runs in his last 19 innings, lowering his ERA to 2.25.
“He’s throwing strikes, throwing his breaking ball for strikes, throwing his changeup, competing,” Leggett said. “He’s not putting extra guys on base and it’s us playing good defense behind him.”
Clemson got off to a lightning-quick opening against Furman starter Kevin Gottlieb. Third baseman John Hinson singled and stole second, then scored on shortstop Brad Miller’s single to right.
Miller stole second and scored when Taylor Johnson couldn’t handle Jeff Schaus’ grounder up the first base line.
Miller and errors figured prominently in the third, too.
Hinson led off with a single to right, and Phil Pohl did the same; Rob Fondu bobbled the ball, leaving runners at second and third.
That brought Miller to the plate, and he connected with a Gottlieb pitch that just kept carrying, and carrying and carrying… into the right field bleachers for a three-run homer.
“I was looking for something up, just battling, and I thought I got it pretty well, I was hoping,” Miller said. “I’ve had a couple that were close. I just got ahold of it and it just kept carrying.”
Suddenly, Clemson led 5-0.
It might have well as been 15-0 as well as Sarratt was throwing.
He worked quickly and efficiently, scattering four hits over six innings of work while allowing only one Paladin past first base.
That hitter, left fielder Will Jones, reached on a fielder’s choice in the sixth and only got to second on Johnson’s grounder back to Sarratt.
“I didn’t even know that,” Sarratt said of Jones. “ (Catcher) Spence (Kieboom) got in a rhythm, as did Pep (pitching coach Dan Pepicelli). The defense played great and everyone played great, all the infielders. They gave us a lead early and my job was just to go out and put zeroes up.”
Sarratt was in a real groove, too.
“I just got into a rhythm, was trying to fill up the strike zone,” he said. “The offense got us on the board early and played good, so that helped me out, and the defense played great, too.”
Miller, who leads the ACC in hitting, finished with four of the Tigers' five RBI. Leggett was pleased with his effort, but said the Tigers hit too many fly balls; Miller’s home run provided the game’s final runs.
Leggett said senior Alex Frederick (0-3, 3.32 ERA) will start tonight against the Catamounts. It’ll be his first start of the season and fourth of his college career.