Tigers struggle to manufacture runs, drop FSU series with 6-1 loss

Baseball - Tyler Slaton

Photo by Mark Crammer

Baseball - Tyler Slaton

Missed opportunities marked the weekend, and especially Saturday, for Clemson baseball at No. 9 Florida State.

The No. 17 Tigers left the bases loaded without a run scored – twice – and hit .166 with runners in scoring position (RISP) as FSU pulled away late to a 6-1 victory.

Despite an 11-hit game one win, Clemson (39-17, 18-12 ACC) hit just .161 with RISP for the series, spoiling its Atlantic Division title hopes, and in turn, watched Florida State (44-11, 20-10) crowned instead, clinching a two-seed in next week’s ACC Tournament.

The Tigers fell short in their bid for a 40-win regular season, which last happened in 2006, and dropped to a five-seed in the ACC Tournament in a round-robin group with No. 2 UNC, No. 5 N.C. State and Miami.

After wins in his three career starts, Clemson freshman lefty Zack Erwin hit the wall in his first road try.

Florida State shortstop Giovanny Alfonso kick-started the Seminoles’ scoring with a two-out RBI double in the second inning. In the next inning, designated hitter Marcus Davis singled in another and first baseman John Nogowski followed with an RBI double for a 3-1 score.

Erwin (5-1) was pulled before recording an out after two innings, with all three runs earned on six hits. His previous shortest outing in a start was five frames.

Despite the early runs, the Tiger bats hung a solid midgame pitching effort out to dry.

In the fourth inning, Clemson center fielder Thomas Brittle worked a full count and then a walk to load the bases, but left fielder Tyler Slaton, on a pop fly, and designated hitter Maleeke Gibson – on a strikeout – left all three on.

FSU lefty Brandon Leibrandt (9-4) lasted long enough for the decision, with a high pitch count allowing nine hits with three strikeouts in five innings.

Leibrandt didn’t leave without the bases full of Tigers again though, but Seminoles lefty reliever Billy Strode kept them scoreless again – and all by single outs – a strikeout looking (Slaton), flyout (Jay Baum) and line-out (Steve Wilkerson). Strode earned his first save of the season by going the distance, throwing four scoreless innings.

Leaving the door open again was enough for FSU to finally strike, as center fielder Seth Miller delivered a backbreaking two-run single in the bottom half of the sixth inning.

The 1-through-5 hitters in the FSU lineup, including Miller as a midgame pinch-hitter, went 8-for-17 with four RBIs in the contest.

Tigers right fielder Steven Duggar knocked in the lone Clemson run in the first inning. The Tigers lost for only the second time all season when scoring in the first frame (19-2) and only the third time when scoring first period (29-3).

First baseman Jon McGibbon continued a hot stretch with a three-hit day, batting an even .500 over the last 16 games.

The two-game FSU winning streak broke up Clemson’s run of three consecutive series wins against the Seminoles. The Tigers had lost two in a row overall just twice since April 1 previously.

The dates and times for Clemson’s ACC Tourney games will be announced Sunday. Making up the other pool is FSU, seventh-ranked Virginia, No. 22 Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.

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