CLEMSON - Clemson's ace was feeling it again on a Friday night at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
But an all too familiar scenario cropped up, becoming a matter of if the lead junior right-hander Daniel Gossett left would hold.
Last week against Eastern Michigan, he was pulled after 71 pitches with a 4-1 advantage, but that lead evaporated the next frame. So did an Opening Day win.
Gossett, leaving the same score after seven frames against Maine this time around, watched from the bench as the Black Bears loaded the bases with one out in the eighth.
"No, no, no!" Gossett said jokingly to teammate Shane Kennedy in the dugout. "I have complete confidence in my bullpen every time out. Zack Erwin was in control...I knew when Zack came in he had it."
Gossett earns first 2014 win
7 strikeouts, 1 run allowed in start ...
As it turns out, the lefty sophomore did, surrendering a RBI single then setting up a 4-6-3 double play. The Tigers tacked on insurance in the bottom half of the inning for the 5-2 win, improving to 3-1 on the season. Maine dropped to 1-3.
Against his alma mater, it was win No. 1,267 for Jack Leggett, which moved him into a tie for the top-10 all-time among his peers. He's top-five among active coaches.
"It was one of those strange things to happen," said Leggett. "That's nice. The most important thing to me is we won the ballgame so I can feel good going home...That's a nice thing. Been around a little while so hopefully we can cap that off tomorrow.
"I always have had a deep appreciation of where I've played. Awesome memories for me. I know the coaches and what they have to battle with weather and that kind of thing. I have a deep appreciation for what they have to do."
Gossett lowered his season WHIP to 0.75 and ERA to 1.50 by allowing four hits and one earned run over seven innings. Starting and finishing strong, the Byrnes product struck out a batter per frame his first four and three in his final two.
"I felt like I was chasing the first few innings," he said. "My last inning was my best inning. I could actually get my fastball downhill on the glove side. Then they pull me."
"I'm like thanks coaches I'm finally getting it," Gossett added with a smile, "but I'm still getting everything cleaned up. It's still early."
His lineup helped him early with a three-run first. Freshman designated hitter Chris Okey lined a two-run double off the wall to bring his team-best RBI total to seven on the year. Before that, sophomore right fielder Steven Duggar extended his hitting streak to 13 games on a run-scoring single.
Clemson 5, Maine 2
In their next try at the plate, leadoff hitter and center fielder Tyler Slaton broke through for his first extra basehit of the season to center field, knocking in a run. Slaton struck again with a double to right field in the eighth, scoring later on a Garrett Boulware single.
"One of them was a hit-and-run and he did a nice job hitting it to center field," Leggett said. "Hit the first ball of the game well to left field. He's been doing a good job for us. I just like the way he plays with great energy and really good defense. He's just a battler and tremendous competitor and hopefully he continues to play well.
"Garrett's hit up the middle to get our fifth run was big. Hit that ball up the middle with two outs. That was a big deal for us."
Maine right fielder Brian Doran plated both of his team's runs, going 2-for-4 on the night. Black Bears ace Tommy Lawrence (0-2) kept his bullpen fresh with eight innings of work, giving up five runs on eight hits with six strikeouts.
Clemson lefty Erwin earned the save, and over two appearances this season, he's pitched 5 2/3 innings without an earned run surrendered.