CLEMSON – Clemson, in a crowded pack fighting for a regional host bid, couldn’t afford to drop another game to Maryland.
A pair of lefty freshman starters made that mission accomplished in a day-night doubleheader sweep, in 3-2 and 9-5 wins.
With the twin victories, No. 19 Clemson has now won four of its last five series and improved to 7-1 over the course of four doubleheaders this season.
“We had to win (both) today,” Tigers coach Jack Leggett said. “There’s no question about it. We let it slip away on Saturday and did what we had to do today. One win wasn’t going to be enough for us.”
Clemson 9, Maryland 5 wrap-up
Tigers sweep doubleheader
In the nightcap, the Clemson bats jumped all over Maryland left-handed starter Alex Robinson early – and with two out.
Cruising through two batters, memories of the last four outings against lefty starters crept in. Going 1-3, the Tigers scored just four runs in 32 innings.
Monday, Clemson (32-15, 17-10 ACC), instead, pushed across four runs in the first inning.
Right fielder Steven Duggar broke the ice with a single up the middle – and following the same model for RBIs was third baseman Shane Kennedy (1), first baseman Jon McGibbon (2) and center fielder Thomas Brittle (1) after that.
In the fifth frame, Clemson shortstop Tyler Krieger delivered an RBI single and the Tigers tacked on two more, which later proved to be some much-needed insurance.
Robinson (1-3) surrendered seven runs (previous career-high was four) on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Matthew Crownover (6-1) worked in-and-out of trouble, allowing just four hits in six shutout innings. Over his last four starts, the Ringgold, Ga. product has only given up two earned runs.
Clemson’s relief wasn’t quite as steady though, surrendering five runs in the seventh inning, but righty Matt Campbell steadied the ship, throwing two scoreless for his seventh save of the season.
Clemson 3, Maryland 2 wrap-up
Erwin earns win in first ACC start
In game one, a repeat of the series opener – where Clemson had only four hits – was in order, for five innings. In the series’ first 14 innings, the Tigers had managed just six hits and three runs.
Meanwhile, Tigers freshman lefty Zack Erwin was holding the line – in his first career ACC and weekend series start – allowing a single run on five hits in a career-high six innings of work.
Working a full count, Brittle walked to lead off the bottom of the sixth. Two batters later, second baseman Steve Wilkerson knocked a big hop-grounder over Maryland first baseman Lamont Wade’s head to score Brittle all the way from first base for the initial go-ahead run.
Later in the inning, Clemson catcher Garrett Boulware added on with a RBI sacrifice fly to right field which proved to be the difference in the 3-2 decision
The Terrapins (28-23, 9-18) doubled up the Tigers in hits, 10-5, and through two games, it stood, 24-9, Maryland.
McGibbon returned after leaving early in game one of the series Saturday with a bruised foot – knocking in the game’s first run, as one of three RBIs on the day and nine RBIs in the last seven games.
“He’s still limping around a little bit,” Leggett said, “but he made around three defensive plays today that saved us.”
Erwin (4-0) became the third true freshman to make a weekend start for Clemson this season. (In fact, all three pitched Monday, as Clate Schmidt entered in a relief role in game two, but didn’t retire a batter, leaving after line-drive hit his right arm. Leggett said postgame the arm was swollen, but nothing was broken).
The Duluth, Ga. product says his mentality hasn’t really changed in a move from a successful long reliever role to wins in his first two starts.
“No sir, not much – I always just pitch,” Erwin said.
“He threw strikes,” said Leggett, “Worked ahead in the count…he did some good things. Hopefully we can keep getting him a little experience every time out and keep on improving.”
Clemson has won 10-of-12 and six-straight series against Maryland.
“It was big,” Krieger said of the Monday sweep. “Going in, those guys are a good team. They are well-coached and they just battle. We just stayed in and knew it would be a grind and fortunately got the wins.”
The Tigers take on Furman (26-20) for a home-and-home series, which begins at Doug Kingsmore today (6:30 p.m.) and ends at Greenville’s Fluor Field Wednesday (7 p.m.).