Liberty wasn’t on the schedule to begin Clemson’s 2014 campaign. The way Tuesday night unfolded, the No. 22 Tigers wish that had stayed the same.
A postponed game at Maryland earlier this season made way for the 2013 Columbia NCAA Regional rematch – and it was indeed reminiscent of that fateful weekend last June.
Jim Toman’s Flames (32-9) eliminated Clemson last year by holding them to four runs in 14 hits over two games.
Tuesday, the Tigers batted .000 with runners in scoring position (0-9) to fall 4-3.
Liberty freshman starter Parker Bean labored early, but Clemson (24-16) couldn’t take full advantage.
Bean gave up two runs without a hit in the first inning, walking five batters. Just 12 balls in the 35-pitch frame landed in the strike zone. Bases loaded and two out, he struck out B-HP product and left fielder Andrew Cox to get out of the jam.
In the second, Bean’s control improved, but not before T.L. Hanna’s own Garrett Boulware knocked in a run on a RBI groundout.
Walks and hit batters were a dubious trend in the series finale loss to Pittsburgh Sunday. Sophomore Clemson right-hander Clate Schmidt (4-6) couldn’t shake loose from that hex Tuesday night.
In the third frame, he retired the first two Flames faced, but walked designated hitter Becker Sankey (on four pitches) and gave up three consecutive hits from there – RBI for Liberty first baseman Alex Close (single) and catcher Danny Grauer (double) cut into Clemson’s lead.
Fast forward to the fifth inning, Schmidt’s fourth of walk in 4 1/3 pitched – shortstop Dalton Britt – went station to station on a wild pitch, grounder and a second wild pitch to tie it up 3-all. Schmidt’s next offering to Grauer was then sent over the left field wall for the deciding run.
From Pitt game No. 3 through the fifth inning against Liberty (13 innings), Clemson pitching had 22 walks and hit batters combined.
With Bean done after four frames, junior left-hander Sean Clowers (5-0) did his part to keep Clemson off-balance with 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
Clowers exited in the seventh with two on and two out, where senior righty Matt Marsh extinguished the threat with a strikeout. The last pitcher Clemson faced in the 2013 season, junior Ashton Perritt, pitched a perfect ninth for his ninth save.
After injuries sustained on Sunday, sophomore shortstop Tyler Krieger – the Tigers’ leader in average (.340) and runs (35) – missed his first start in 102 games as a Tiger. Wren product Eli White struggled at the plate in his stead (0-3).
Clemson left 13 runners on base – no one having a worse night than sophomore right fielder Steven Duggar, who went 0-for-4 with a walk with runners on.
Clemson hosts Western Carolina at 6:30 p.m. today before a three-game set with No. 15 Miami in town this weekend.