GREENVILLE - For baseball fans who like to wrap themselves in tradition before they head out to the old ballgame, Fluor Field is a little bit of heaven.
Step inside the facility and you’ve stepped inside a replica of Fenway Park, complete with its own version of the Green Monster daring big hitters to swing away – and aim high.
The home of the South Atlantic League’s Greenville Drive provides a Boston accent to the Upstate – although you aren’t likely to hear any Boston accents once you step inside the friendly confines.
Until Saturday what you might’ve heard from Clemson fans, though, is grumbling. Location-wise this park is a home away from home for the Tigers. Results-wise – at least when it came to playing South Carolina – well, it might as well have been Yankee Stadium.
Previously Clemson lost the only two games it played here against USC.
In fact, playing the Gamecocks anywhere outside of Pickens County has been a losing proposition for the Tigers of late.
One doesn’t have to be a baseball historian to learn the Gamecocks have been the dominant team in this great rivalry for the past few years. And that makes perfect sense considering Chad Holbrook’s team – which was Ray Tanner’s team for 16 seasons – is coming off a three-year stretch that includes two national championships and one appearance in the College World Series finals.
They’ve dominated a lot of teams.
But one nagging oddity for Tiger faithful is that their club – which traditionally is usually pretty good at this particular stick and ball sport – just couldn’t seem to figure out how to beat USC in a neutral site game.
Until, that is, they lined up against their biggest rivals and beat them 6-3 on a bitterly cold day that featured enough rain and “wintry mix” to delay its start for an hour.
“I think we just came in here and our offense did some absolutely outstanding things to win this game,” Clemson pitcher Clate Schmidt said. “Winning (at Fluor Field) is big, but the biggest thing is beating a great program like USC. Beating a good program is always good.”
The fans among the 7,125 sporting purple and orange left frigid Fluor Field happy following the Tigers’ victory, warmed by the fact that several streaks were snapped.
That whole neutral site jinx, of course, is over.
Consequently the Tigers - who had lost nine consecutive games to the Gamecocks away from Doug Kingsmore Stadium – didn’t see that number hit 10 in the second contest of the schools’ 2013 series.
And the 0-2 mark Jack Leggett’s team had against South Carolina at Fluor Field now stands at 1-2 instead of 0-3, meaning the Fenway Park replica seems a little more welcoming this morning.
“It was 6-3,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said. “They just beat us. Clemson’s a good team.”
So, certainly, is South Carolina, a team well-aware of a couple more streaks in college baseball’s greatest rivalry.
The Tigers have lost four straight at the house Tanner built and the Gamecocks haven’t allowed them to win two in a row against them in more than a decade.
So what does Clemson coach Jack Leggett think about Sunday’s visit to Carolina Stadium?
It’s pretty simple. The winner is the winner of the series.
That little tidbit - not the locale – is what’s most important to him.
“We’re going to play a ballgame,” Leggett said. “You guys can make a big deal out of the other stuff if you want.”