Tiger pitching hit hard as No. 22 Cavaliers take series

Virginia's Joe McCarthy (31) advances safely to second on a base hit as Clemson second baseman Steve Wilkerson, right, drops the ball in the first inning of an NCAA college baseball game on Sunday, Mar. 17, 2013 in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

Photo by Mark Crammer

Virginia's Joe McCarthy (31) advances safely to second on a base hit as Clemson second baseman Steve Wilkerson, right, drops the ball in the first inning of an NCAA college baseball game on Sunday, Mar. 17, 2013 in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

While one streak fell this weekend, another dubious one continued for Tiger baseball Sunday afternoon at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

Sophomore Clemson catcher Garrett Boulware’s walkoff single Saturday night broke up a run of nine-straight wins by the No. 22 Cavaliers over the Tigers, but a wire-to-wire 8-5 Virginia win Sunday extended their series streak to six-straight – stretching back to 2005.

Going in, Clemson right-hander Scott Firth (2-3) had been the victim of back-to-back losses with a lone earned run on the record each, but struggling to finish off batters all day, Virginia jumped on him early and often.

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In a 30-pitch first frame, Firth gave up a pair of one-out hits – hit a batter – then walked in the next two for a pair of runs.

The next inning wasn’t any better for the senior co-captain, surrendering three more runs, with a pair of errors by his middle infielders extending the Cavaliers’ rally.

“We dug ourselves a hole the first couple innings,” Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. “We didn’t have much going for (Firth) today and didn’t play good defense behind him. As a result of the whole thing, we got behind by five.”

On 111 pitches, Firth finished with six earned runs to his name, jumping from a 0.98 ERA coming in to 3.58 by the end of five innings pitched.

“Early in the game, I think was going a little too fast,” Firth said. “I kinda got out of my game a little bit of staying in control and pounding the zone. Caught a couple tough breaks, but got to hand it to them, they took advantage.”

Firth, relishing his spot at the back of the weekend rotation, was disappointed he dropped a second start in the last three with the series on the line.

“I take a lot of responsibility for that,” said Firth. “It’s my job as a senior and Sunday guy to set things off on the right foot.”

Virginia right-hander Nick Howard (3-1) had a Clemson lineup, which touched up the Wahoos (17-2, 4-2 ACC) for 11 runs on 21 hits in the first two games, off-balance all day.

It took until the fourth inning with two outs recorded for Clemson second baseman Steve Wilkerson to break up Howard’s perfect effort, but like in five of his six innings on the mound, nothing came of it.

A frame later, Howard stranded the bases loaded with a grounder to first base, and in the sixth, he escaped a 2-out rally, allowing only his third and fourth earned runs of the season.

The Tigers tacked three runs on Virginia relief to make things interesting late, but left nine on base on the game.

Firth struggles to third-straight loss

None

Leggett’s lineup did offer up 14 hits though, a positive moving forward against a strong pitching staff, but they just didn’t come at the times needed enough on Sunday.

“They did a good job of keeping our leadoff guy off base,” Leggett said, “and that’s a key to the game. We tried to build some innings, but we had two outs and we needed a two-out basehit and we didn’t quite come up in those situations.”

Left fielder Tyler Slaton led the Tiger bats, going 3-of-4 with a RBI and run scored, while Virginia first baseman Jared King drove in and scored three runs in a 3-for-5 day.

Clemson (11-7, 3-3) had a chance with a win for its first back-to-back series victories over a top-25 opponent since 2006, after taking 2-of-3 at No. 9 N.C. State last weekend, but instead dropped its eighth in the last nine against Virginia.

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