CLEMSON — There really wasn’t any question of Clemson junior Jay Baum’s versatility.
This weekend, he started at third base the first two games against Eastern Michigan — and Sunday, Tigers coach Jack Leggett didn’t hesitate to put him in left field juggling an injury-hampered lineup. In his first two seasons, he saw time at first and second base as well.
Baum has career day
No, Leggett knew what he had from him defensively, but he was on record of saying the Alpharetta, Ga. product had to hit. Baum took a career .224 average into 2014. Last season, he ranked dead-last among Tiger lineup regulars in RBI percentage, plating eight in 124 opportunities with runners on.
Sunday at Doug Kingsmore just might have been his breakthrough, however, going 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored in the No. 13 Tigers’ 9-7 win over Eastern Michigan. After an Opening Day loss, they swept the final two to take the series.
“He was hitting with men on base,” Leggett said. “If he stays in that zone a little bit it’s going to help for sure.”
Neither starter survived the third inning in the three hour and 39-minute affair.
Junior transfer and T.L. Hanna product Jake Long’s Clemson debut started promising enough, with his fastball hitting the 90s with regularity.
Long sailed through the first inning 1-2-3, recorded his first strikeout and also picked off a runner in the second frame.
The righty’s third got off to a rocky start he never recovered from, surrendering three extra basehits to left field, running up his pitch count and losing his four-run lead with it.
Hanna alum battery-mate Garrett Boulware believes it was just a bump in the road for him.
“Honestly he was cruising right along,” Boulware said. “He made a couple mistakes and they jumped on him. It was just one thing after another...Credit to them. They are a good-hitting team. They really are. I think Jake Long has a great future here.”
In the fifth, Baum rifled his second extra basehit of the day to the right field gap for a triple and scored on a Chris Okey sacrifice fly. That was one of the freshman catcher/designated hitter’s five RBIs on the weekend.
Eastern Michigan’s attack was potent all day though, peppering the wall with six extra basehits by the 7th and taking a 7-6 lead.
Clemson 9, EMU 7
Wrapping up weekend one
Two out and a runner on third, Baum came up big again in eighth inning with a single through the middle to give Clemson the lead — and later scoring some insurance with a Tiger in a rundown.
“I just wanted to get a hit and I got to two strikes,” Baum said, “and I was trying to battle-battle and hit the ball somewhere and I put it up the middle. I’m feeling great. Excited to get up there to hit.”
Senior reliever Matt Campbell (1-0) shut the door late with three strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings.
Clemson takes a 2-1 record into next weekend with Maine. Leggett relishes the tough early competition.
“It by far helps us in the end,” he said. “It was intense at different times, but it will help us in the very end. They’re a good ballclub. They can play with this conference...They made a couple mistakes and we took advantage.”