Down to their last out, Gamecocks rally for 4 ninth-inning runs to sweep Tigers

Clemson's Tyler Slaton, USC's Grayson Greiner honored as series MVPs

Clemson's Chris Okey picks up the ball after South Carolina's Grayson Greiner scores a run in the ninth inning to make the score 3-3.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Clemson's Chris Okey picks up the ball after South Carolina's Grayson Greiner scores a run in the ninth inning to make the score 3-3.

CLEMSON — The execution was just about perfect.

No. 3 South Carolina loaded the bases with two out in the ninth — down 3-1 — before a near capacity crowd at Doug Kingsmore Stadium Sunday night.

No. 11 Clemson’s sophomore right-hander Clate Schmidt had cruised to that point, retiring six of his first seven batters before Gamecocks catcher Grayson Greiner knocked a single up the middle. Down to his last strike, pinch-hitter Brison Celek kept South Carolina’s hopes alive with another single.

USC 5, Clemson 3

Gamecocks sweep the series

Then it happened, Gamecocks shortstop Marcus Mooney sent Schmidt’s first delivery up the middle to Clemson center fielder Tyler Slaton — one Gamecock scores and Greiner is barreling around third. Slaton winds up and fires a strike just off the plate — freshman catcher Chris Okey tags Greiner out.

But Okey drops the ball. Greiner’s safe — and the game is tied. Six pitches into the next at-bat, South Carolina center fielder Tanner English laced a double down the left field line for the decisive two runs in a 5-3 Gamecocks win.

“We just wanted to get a couple runners on. (Schmidt) was dominant,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said. “He had dominant stuff in the seventh. It was going to be a tall order to score runs against him. It was a tall order. He may have got a pitch up here or there and we got a good swing on it. It’s baseball. Today was our day.”

South Carolina (10-0) swept the three-game series, continuing a dominant run since 2010 where they’ve won 13-of-16.

Slaton, who took Clemson’s MVP honors going 7-for-14 at the plate in the series, summed up the Tigers’ mood succinctly.

“It’s pretty tough to swallow,” Slaton said. “I thought we played well all game. It just hurts.”

Holbrook said pulling more than a pair of wins out of the rivalry series was going to be tough, but he had just the team makeup to do so.

“Sweeps are very, very rare,” said Holbrook. “Our kids are resilient and they played hard. For the most part we played well. We made some mistakes today, but it’s a gritty bunch and I’ve got some older players that have been around the block around a time or two. That showed there. “

The Tigers struck first on a Steven Duggar RBI single up the middle, who extended his team-best hitting streak to 19 games.

For awhile, that was enough for T.L. Hanna product Jake Long, making his third career start in a Tiger uniform.

Long allowed a single hit one time through the Gamecock order.

An English RBI single tied things up in the fifth, but Long was able to do what Clemson starters in the first two games couldn’t — limit the damage. Two down and two on in the same inning, Long induced a fly-ball to left field to end the threat.

He saved his best Clemson start for the rivalry showdown, going 6 1/3 innings with five hits allowed and four strikeouts.

“Jake pitched really well for us,” Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. “I’m proud of how he pitched. He did a great job for us.”

Tiger runs in the sixth and seventh frames gave them the 3-1 edge as late as one out left in the ninth.

“I really felt like we were in control the whole time until the last inning,” Leggett said. “I felt really good about where we were and how we were playing. We had a great crowd here and I feel like we’ve got more big things coming out of this team before it’s over.”

A call in the eighth joined a number of chances that will haunt he and his team when they think back to this one.

Slaton thought he had him

None

Two on and one out, senior second baseman Steve Wilkerson hit a line-drive down the first base line that appeared — in real-time and on replay — to hit the chalk past the bag. First base umpire David Brown didn’t see it that way — and the Tigers’ hall-of-fame coach had some words for him. Wilkerson struck out and South Carolina relief retired the next four batters.

“I wouldn’t have come over if I didn’t think it was fair,” Leggett said. “It was a big part of the ballgame and a big situation with men on base in a big game. Unfortunately it didn’t go our way.”

Clemson hit just 2-of-12 with runners in scoring position on the night overall.

Gamecocks freshman starter Wil Crowe was chased after 6 2/3 innings, taking the no-decision, while junior righty reliever Cody Mincey earned his second win of the season with two scoreless frames.

Going into the ninth, Clemson had edged USC 11-5 in hits, but the Gamecocks finished with 10. Greiner took MVP honors, with the game-tying run and a Friday grand-slam among his weekend highlights.

“We fought to the last out,” Holbrook said. “That’s a good characteristic to a baseball team because it doesn’t always go your way. I’m glad our guys kept battling and fighting — I’m proud of them.”

Follow Brandon Rink on Twitter at @brink_aim and OrangeandWhite.com at @orangeandwhite

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Comments » 13

Bigboots writes:

Jack. About ready to retire?
Maine is calling.

radtiger writes:

Coaching had nothing to do with it, SC is #3 in the Nation for a reason.....Theyve always had better talent in Baseball them Clemson

TheTruth46 writes:

First of all, Wil Crowe is not a sophomore, he is a freshman, and not a redshirt. Secondly, I have a brand new broom...anyone need something swept? And lastly, everytime I see or hear Jack Leg, I feel I need to bring crackers and cheese. That guy should be ashamed of himself...what a whiner.

michtiger writes:

USC is a good team but lets face it, without power at bat and 10 errors in a 3 game series and pitching that is just so-so you will not beat many good teams. If you are a fan and paid attention to the first two series we lost one and struggled in a few others against teams that have not seen grass for four months!!! This team has a lot of work to do.

kellytown writes:

in response to michtiger:

USC is a good team but lets face it, without power at bat and 10 errors in a 3 game series and pitching that is just so-so you will not beat many good teams. If you are a fan and paid attention to the first two series we lost one and struggled in a few others against teams that have not seen grass for four months!!! This team has a lot of work to do.

I agree with your comments.How about fundamentals. 10 errors. that should not be happening. I don't see 10 errors in little league.seems to me that if you can't coach fundamentals then maybe you need to find another job!!! Its is time for a change maybe the whole coaching staff needs to be evaluated. Their is just no excusses for these mental mistakes errors what ever you call them.I think it called basic coaching.

Bigboots writes:

in response to radtiger:

Coaching had nothing to do with it, SC is #3 in the Nation for a reason.....Theyve always had better talent in Baseball them Clemson

Oh, I didnt realize coaching had nothing to do with it. Really?
Then why even have a coach? Why pay a staff?
Sc has not always had better talent. clemson leads the all-time series record. And who do you suppose recruits and pencils the line-up in for each game? Maybe a COACH?
Cant have that many errors.
Cant blow a 9th inning lead that way.
Cant lose every game to your rival.
Jack should resign TODAY!

lwb1946 writes:

Three wins since 2010? Not a very good record. Sure, people can say that SC is a good team but fans don't care about how good a team is and all the excuses after a while. Bottom line is whatever it takes we need to get back to winning against our biggest rival. Excuses can only go so far after a while some changes need to be made to get back on the winning side of this rivalry.

brookesdad729 writes:

What kills me is the blown leads and some weren't small leads either! That's what's tough to swallow! Well it's not how you start it's how you finish so let's hope for a strong finish and a trip to Omaha!

BigBud52 writes:

I love my Tigers, but after watching the games this weekend, if this team wants to go to Omaha they better get on Stub Hub.

TRUETIGER1 writes:

in response to Bigboots:

Oh, I didnt realize coaching had nothing to do with it. Really?
Then why even have a coach? Why pay a staff?
Sc has not always had better talent. clemson leads the all-time series record. And who do you suppose recruits and pencils the line-up in for each game? Maybe a COACH?
Cant have that many errors.
Cant blow a 9th inning lead that way.
Cant lose every game to your rival.
Jack should resign TODAY!

Amen! Why is he still here ?

33dtb writes:

Jack seems to have a history of leaving pitchers in long enough to seal a defeat.

Jack can't be bothered with recruiting a "pitcher" ..... strictly fastball ...

Remember the Gamecock pitcher that beat us EVERY time, with a "fastball" of 84 mph ??

TRUETIGER1 writes:

We have no leadership anywhere in athletics, kind of reminds me of our country, I guess it is the "NEW WAY" no one is accountable.

clemvol writes:

in response to Bigboots:

Oh, I didnt realize coaching had nothing to do with it. Really?
Then why even have a coach? Why pay a staff?
Sc has not always had better talent. clemson leads the all-time series record. And who do you suppose recruits and pencils the line-up in for each game? Maybe a COACH?
Cant have that many errors.
Cant blow a 9th inning lead that way.
Cant lose every game to your rival.
Jack should resign TODAY!

He's not the only one that needs to resign. When will enough be enough.

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