Clemson hosts Winthrop in last tuneup before rivalry series

Baseball - Matthew Crownover

Photo by Mark Crammer

Baseball - Matthew Crownover

CLEMSON – Clemson baseball hosts Winthrop Tuesday in a last tuneup before this weekend’s three-game, three-site series with rival South Carolina.

The Tigers (5-1) come off a resounding sweep of Wright State, stringing together back-to-back shutouts against the same opponent for the first time since 2002.

A major part of that was the defense behind the pitching, posting a fielding percentage of .992 with just one error. On the season, the Tigers have turned eight double plays already (four in one game Saturday).

Winthrop (2-5) hasn’t had it as easy.

At home for six of their first seven contests, the Eagles lost all but two, including three-straight coming in at their Coca-Cola Classic over the weekend versus Delaware State and Eastern Kentucky.

They are hitting a measly .248 as a team, averaging 3.4 runs a game, but the team ERA is a semi-respectable, at 3.75. Both hitting .407, left fielder Cody Dolan, who has Winthrop’s lone home run, and third baseman Leighton Daniels pace the lineup.

They face freshman left-hander Matthew Crownover (0-0, 27.00 ERA) in his first career start. He is the first Tiger lefty to start in 101 games, stretching back to April 2011 and Will Lamb.

In his lone appearance this season, Crownover, rated the No. 8 ACC newcomer by Baseball America preseason, was roughed up in relief for two earned runs on two hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning against William & Mary in the opening series.

The Eagles will counter with a left-hander of their own, Sam Kmiec (0-1, 2.08), who is making his first start of the season after five relief appearances.

The Tiger bats were stumped against a lefty for five hitless frames on Sunday versus Wright State’s Robby Sexton, but Sexton didn’t make it out of the sixth – tagged for three base knocks and a run before the floodgates opened later in the 7-0 Clemson win.

The Tigers are scoring nearly six runs per game (5.7), led by junior second baseman Steve Wilkerson and junior college signee, designated hitter Shane Kennedy.

Wilkerson is hitting .478 with a homer, two doubles and seven RBIs with three steals. Kennedy is batting an even .300 with a team-leading eight RBIs and Clemson’s only other home run.

The rainy conditions early in the day in Clemson are expected to clear before the 4 p.m. first pitch.

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