Maybe it was a stiff back. Maybe it was a disruption in routine. But whatever the problem, Jake Long wasn't quite himself in his start against Furman Tuesday night at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
Normally Clemson's Sunday starter, Long worked a single inning last weekend before rain washed out the third game of the Tigers' series at Maryland.
Given the ball against Furman, Long started out well enough with a leadoff strikeout, but then struggled through a 38-pitch first inning that saw the Paladins grab a 1-0 lead.
Tiger coach Jack Leggett went to the bullpen in the second, bringing on Zack Erwin, who turned Clemson's shaky start into a relief masterpiece.
Erwin worked six scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and giving his teammates time and opportunity to capitalize on Furman's wildness with a string of big hits en route to a 13-2 Clemson victory.
The Tigers evened the score in the first when Tyler Slaton was hit by a pitch, stole second and third, and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Steven Duggar.
Clemson moved on top with a run in the second, again capitalizing when Paladin starter Billy Greenfield hit Steve Wilkerson to lead off the inning. Wilkerson advanced to second, and then to third, on passed balls and scored on single to left by freshman Weston Wilson.
Erwin worked out of a couple of minor jams, and the Tigers carried their 2-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth.
Then the wheels fell off for the Paladins.
Wilkerson led off with a base hit, moved to second when Shane Kennedy was hit by a pitch (Furman's fourth of the game), and then scored on a double to left field by Jay Baum. Wilson and Slaton followed with doubles down the right field line, and Slaton came home on a Garrett Boulware sac-fly to put the Tigers in command, 7-1.
Clemson added three more runs in the seventh - a solo home run by Wilkerson, his team-leading fourth of the season, and a two-run double by Slaton - and another three in the eighth on a three-run homer by Jon McGibbon.
Furman scored a run in the top of the ninth off reliever Wales Toney.
With the victory, 15th-ranked Clemson improved to 18-9. Furman fell to 11-18. The Tigers will be at home again on Wednesday against Winthrop.
Follow Kerry Capps on Twitter @oandwkc