CLEMSON – Opportunity missed, again, for No. 25 Clemson baseball.
Nursing a 5-3 lead in the fifth inning, two fielding errors by Clemson pitchers opened the floodgates for a 10-run Georgia Tech fifth inning, as the Yellow Jackets avoided the sweep with a 14-9 win.
No. 20 Georgia Tech batted around and then some, sending 13 batters to the plate, with eight of the 10 runs unearned.
“It definitely killed us,” Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. “They swung the bats well today, but that one inning we didn’t pitch, play defense (and) didn’t field the bunts.”
GT series wrap
Tigers take series, 2-1
It was the Tigers’ fifth try and a third time unsuccessful completing a sweep in ACC play. Competing with Georgia Tech for a NCAA regional bid, Clemson (30-14, 15-9 ACC) left the door open with only two conference series left.
“I’m not even thinking about that,” said Leggett. “We’d obviously love (to host a regional), but we have a lot of work to do. We got to continue to keep playing.”
“We got to find an answer for our third ballgame on the weekend,” he said, as the Tigers dropped to 5-6 in weekend series finales. “We’re not getting what we need to get there…We just didn’t come in and do the job that inning.”
The Yellow Jackets (28-16, 12-12) snapped a six-game losing streak, while the decision was only Clemson’s third loss in the last 17 games.
The Tigers put up four runs in the first inning to take a 4-2 lead, and tacked on another score in the third for a three-run edge.
Clemson starter Clate Schmidt (3-3), who had retired 10 batters after first inning issues, surrendered a leadoff double to right fielder Daniel Palka, and as the rainy weather picked up, the inning went more and more downhill.
Schmidt bobbled a bunt to load the bases, and Tech first baseman A.J. Murray tied things up with a single up the middle.
Freshman righty Brody Koerner, making his ACC debut in Schmidt’s place, walked in a run, bobbled a bunt himself and gave up a three-run triple to Palka to bust the game wide open.
The rally didn’t go unanswered, however, as Clemson put a 3-spot on the board.
All-totaled, the two combined for 13 runs on 10 hits in the fifth. It was the most runs given up in an inning by Clemson since 1997 (12, against South Carolina), and the last time they gave up 10 was against Georgia Tech, also in the fifth inning in 1994.
The Tigers’ last real threat came and went in the seventh inning, with the bases loaded, on a 4-6-3 double play off left fielder Tyler Slaton’s bat.
Georgia Tech’s Jonathan King earned the win (4-3) in 2 1/3 innings of relief, while catcher Zane Evans was a perfect 6-for-6 at the plate with two home runs and four RBIs.
The finale didn’t completely sour the week as a whole, as the Tigers scored nine runs per game going 3-1 after putting up two scores all last weekend at Miami.
Clemson pounded out 13 hits, all singles, for the second time in the two-day and three-game series, and freshman shortstop Tyler Krieger accounted for three of them, knocking in four runs. He reached base 13 of his 16 plate appearances over the weekend, with seven RBIs total.
“He’s been locked in after a rough start,” Clemson first baseman McGibbon said. “I still think we have another notch to go offensively.
“We’ve been good right now, but we still have another level.”
The Tigers take the week off for exams, reconvening next Saturday for a series with Maryland.