CLEMSON – Clemson followed a plan that’s worked all season in wins – jump on the scoreboard early and let the pitching do the rest – in a 4-1 victory over Gardner-Webb Wednesday night.
The Tigers improved to 11-1 when scoring first and 10-0 when scoring in the first inning this season, and nailed down a 16th victory in 17 tries when leading after seven innings.
It took one pitch in the first inning for sophomore catcher Garrett Boulware, batting in the three-hole, to jump-start the win.
Clemson 4 Gardner-Webb 1 wrap-up
Runnin’ Bulldogs senior starter Conner Scarborough fired in a slider and the T.L. Hanna product lifted a towering two-run shot to Doug Kingsmore Stadium’s left field stands – his fifth homer of the season (as many as the rest of the team combined).
“I’m always thinking fastball,” Boulware said, “but I saw it and I let my hands work and it worked out for the best.”
The knock was only the second extra-base hit off Scarborough (1-4) all season, who took the loss on those two runs in two innings of work.
Clemson center fielder Thomas Brittle made his way all around the bases in a different way in the fourth. The senior’s liner hit the first base bag and proceeded to reach the right field corner for a double, and he then scored on dual fielding misadventures of the Gardner-Webb right fielder Danny Yelverton and second baseman Scott Johnson.
That was all Clemson senior right-hander Jonathan Meyer needed and more in his first start of the season.
Meyer (2-0) scattered five hits and didn’t have his 12 2/3 scoreless innings’ streak end, extending over three appearances, until a 7th-inning sac-fly. He struck out six batters with no walks.
“My slider was definitely on tonight,” Meyer said, who found about the starting opportunity on an early Tuesday a.m. bus-ride back from North Carolina. “I was just ready to go. I was excited. Gave me a little bit of extra adrenaline that I got a start.”
Clemson coach Jack Leggett says the key to his effectiveness was pretty simple.
“He was throwing strikes and wasn’t walking anybody,” Leggett said. “He was just getting ahead in the count and doing a good job for us.”
Gardner-Webb’s best threat came an inning after Meyer exited, with two runners in scoring position and one out, but Tigers sophomore righty Kyle Schnell worked out of it – snagging a line-drive and picking off the runner at third base.
The tight-rope walk was a little too much for Leggett to take.
“I thought our guys pitched really well,” Leggett said. “Played good defense. I didn’t like the way we were offensively. There were four or five times where we did not execute, moving guys over.
“We got to do a better job, period. If we play like that, we’re average. If we do a better job, we’re pretty good.”
In his first action since March 23, junior reliever Matt Campbell, who gave up five earned runs in that outing, nabbed his fifth save of the season.
Meyer performs in first 2013 start
Boulware and third baseman Shane Kennedy both extended team-leading hitting streaks to six games. In that span, the junior college signee Kennedy is hitting .417 (10-for-24), while Boulware improved his team-best season average to .357.
Clemson second baseman Steve Wilkerson (.286 average/16 RBIs) didn’t start for a second game in a row after lacerating a finger in warmups at No. 1 UNC on Monday. The Tigers (18-11) hope to have him back for this weekend’s ACC series at last-place Boston College.
“He was sore today,” said Leggett. “He couldn’t swing the bat very much. I’m hoping he’s ready for the weekend. If not, we’ll go with the same lineup we had today.”