Key errors and big innings given up – that’s been the story of late in a tough start for Clemson.
That script flipped Saturday – and with it, the No. 15 Tigers found some power in a 12-2 win over Virginia Tech.
Already up 1-0 after a Chris Okey RBI single, Clemson (8-5) took full advantage of a struggling Hokies’ defense.
After a three-error Friday, Virginia Tech (6-6) fielding misplays first extended the second inning – by a errant throw to second base from lefty starter Kit Scheetz, and then allowed one of the four Tigers’ runs in the frame – a off the mark throw from Hokies third baseman Miguel Ceballos letting Weston Wilson score from third.
The Tigers were far from done inflicting pain at the plate.
Senior second baseman Steve Wilkerson led off the third with a double and junior third baseman Jay Baum dropped a single to center to score him. On a 10-pitch at-bat, senior first baseman Jon McGibbon powered a two-run homer over the Cajun Café in the right field. It was his first home run since a walkoff shot in the 2012 ACC Tournament against Florida State.
After a four-pitch walk to the next batter, Scheetz’s day was done. Scheetz (1-1) gave up five earned runs (eight total) on eight hits in two-plus innings of work.
Putting a leadoff runner on in a third-straight inning, two more would follow to load the bases for Wilson. On Hokie reliever Phil Sciretta’s second delivery, Wilson’s fly-ball carried just over the left field fence for Clemson’s first grand slam and first multi-homer effort of the season. With it, the Tigers held a commanding 12-1 lead after four innings.
Sophomore left-hander Matthew Crownover, coming off his shortest start in a loss against South Carolina (2 2/3 innings), cruised before, during and after the big Clemson offensive output.
Crownover (3-1) put up a 1-2-3 and seven-pitch first frame and struck out the next two batters in the second. Over six innings, he gave up two runs – one earned – on five hits with a lone walk. Clemson weekend starters have averaged just a little over one walk per game this season (1.2).
"I thought we played really well today," Clemson coach Jack Leggett told reporters postgame. "We put together a complete game. Matthew Crownover pitched outstanding, Drew Moyer and Brody Koerner came in and did their thing, and Wales (Toney) came in really sharp at the end."
Going into the weekend, Clemson was hitting 26 points better versus left-handed pitching (.321) than against righties (.295). With up to nine lefties in the lineup Saturday (including switch-hitters), they touched up Virginia Tech southpaws for all 12 runs (nine earned; 11 RBIs) on 12 hits and their first two home runs against the side this season.
Both knocking in a run on the afternoon, Tiger catchers Chris Okey and Garrett Boulware are tied for the team-lead in RBIs (13). Baum and Wilson both had three-hit efforts Saturday. With his five RBIs, Wilson moved into second on the team with 11.
"Offensively, we were on the mark all game long," Leggett said. "Weston Wilson had a big day with five RBIs. (Jon) McGibbon hit a big home run. Tomorrow is another day, so we have to come back and stay focused."
The Tigers go for the sweep at 1 p.m. Sunday.