CLEMSON – Clemson third baseman Shane Kennedy walked to lead off a tie game in the ninth inning, and he found his way around the bases in an ever-dramatic manner to clinch a seventh-straight win for his team.
Before throwing a pitch, a new Presbyterian College reliever, Ryan Morris, balked – moving Kennedy to second base, and on a long fly-ball, Kennedy proceeded to third base on a Blue Hose second baseman Billy Motroni error on the relay throw back.
P.C. then entered some strategy, loading the bases with a pair of intentional walks for the force at every base with the game on the line.
Krieger delivers in the 9th
Designated hitter Jay Baum, who pinch-hit after missing his first start of the season, was the batter. In the same situation, he had left the bases loaded not once, but twice already in the game – and Jack Leggett didn’t opt for the pinch-hitter.
The third time wasn’t the charm though – a weak pop-out to short leaving No. 22 Clemson down to its last chance to end it before extras.
Freshman shortstop Tyler Krieger, instead, earned the hero designation – lining a 0-2 pitch to the right field wall for the Tigers to walk-off with a 5-4 win.
“He started off with a fastball,” Krieger said, talking the game-winning at-bat, “and I just wanted to see what he had then I made a really bad swing at the second pitch.
“But I looked down to coach (Jack) Leggett and he told me to calm down. Then (Morris) threw a curveball down-and-in and I got a good piece of the bat on it.”
Krieger went 4-for-5 at the plate with a triple on the game. Clemson newcomers as a group accounted for eight of the Tigers’ 12 hits and half of the RBIs (2).
“It takes everybody to win,” Leggett said, “whether you’re old and got experience, or you’re young and you don’t have much experience.
“We’re growing up now. Krieger is getting better and better every time out offensively.”
Senior Tigers reliever Matt Campbell, after earning the save the night before at Western Carolina, got the win (1-1), pitching a scoreless ninth inning with two strikeouts.
“It’s been good,” said Leggett, on extending the season-best winning streak. “It’s given some confidence in some close games – last night (12-9 win at Western Carolina), tonight – the (last) game against Boston College (1-0). It’s not so good for me, but it’s good for us in the long run.”
Clemson (23-11) had its chances to put away the Blue Hose (18-16) earlier, leaving seven runners in scoring position over the first five innings, and therefore leaving the door open for Presbyterian to wash away an early lead.
Trailing 3-1 in the sixth, a suicide squeeze executed by Blue Hose catcher Derek Long cut into the lead for one run, and third baseman Jay LIzanich tripled home the tying score to chase freshman Tigers starter Brody Koerner.
On 85 pitches, Koerner pitched a career-high 5 2/3 innings, surrendering only one earned run, with three strikeouts and two walks.
P.C. kept the hot bats going in the seventh, manufacturing the go-ahead run via a one-out triple by center fielder Aaron Preston and subsequent sacrifice fly to left field from first baseman Brad Zebedis.
Krieger evened up action almost by himself in the bottom half of the next inning though, with a triple to right center and scoring on a Chad Sanders’ wild pitch.
Clemson sophomore catcher Garrett Boulware crushed a line-drive over the the left field wall in the fifth inning, a solo shot, which gave him more home runs by himself (6) than the rest of the Tigers combined (5).
Clemson returns to action this weekend for a three-game set with Wake Forest at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.