CLEMSON — When the hits came — and the runs didn’t last week against South Carolina, junior Clemson catcher Garrett Boulware couldn’t figure it out.
They knocked through 28 hits, which yielded only 11 runs on the wrong end of a rivalry sweep.
They saw just how quickly that fortune can change in college baseball in their opening ACC series, peppering Doug Kingsmore Stadium with 16 hits in a 11-4 win Sunday to complete the sweep of Virginia Tech.
They pushed through 36 runs on 30 hits for a nice spot on top of the Atlantic Division after week one of conference play.
Tigers sweep Hokies
Clemson starts ACC play 3-0
“It’s the same approach we’ve had all year and it showed today,” Boulware, a T.L. Hanna product, said. “We’re a good team. We can hit well. It definitely helps getting that confidence back because last week was very frustrating.”
As they did all three games, No. 15 Clemson (9-5, 3-0) jumped on top early — this time on a two-out RBI single from center fielder Tyler Slaton in the second.
After adding another score in the third, Virginia Tech’s bats came to life in the fourth frame with three runs on four hits (three extra basehits) to chase Clemson starter Jake Long before he recorded an out.
Clemson reliever Clate Schmidt surrendered a fourth run on a wild pitch, but stranded another Hokie to get out of the jam.
With a leadoff runner on in a fourth consecutive inning, the Tiger bats went back to work. Boulware briefly gained the team-lead in RBIs on a single, but two batters later, catcher Chris Okey jumped back on top with a two-run single to give Clemson a 6-4 lead after four innings.
The freshman wasn’t done.
Infield in and two in scoring position in the sixth, he chopped Virginia Tech righty reliever Aaron McGarity’s first delivery up the middle for his 16th and 17th RBIs of the season.
“I just kind of go up there with the same approach if there’s no one on base,” Okey said, who reached base in all four plate appearances Sunday (3-for-3 with a walk). “Just see ball — hit ball. They’re going to try to get ahead of you early so that’s what I count on. I got a couple (strikes) early in the count. I got a couple hits on them.”
The Florida native has knocked in a run 11 of his first 14 collegiate games.
“He’s going to be a really good player for us,” Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. “He’s a really tough out at the plate. He has good concentration skills and a great competitor.”
That was all Schmidt (2-2) needed, giving up one earned over four innings of work.
“It was awesome,” Schmidt said. “The guys have been working day-in and day-out with the extra cuts and they’ve been on fire with the bats and it was awesome the way they picked me up.”
Going 3-for-5 at the plate with three runs scored, Boulware added his first homer of the season in the seventh for his 15th RBI of the young season.
Schmidt earns win to clinch sweep
Clemson swept its first ACC opener since 2010. In six sweeps to start conference play since 2000, the Tigers hosted a regional five of those years.
After being a regional host last season, the Hokies slipped below .500 (6-7, 0-3).
Clemson broke a run of six consecutive games with an error (16 total in the run).
“It’s (a) good (conference start),” Boulware said. “Last year we had some rookie mistakes. Granted we’ve had some errors this year, but we’ve capitalized on (opponents). We’ve been able to pull out of it. Not that we want to be comfortable, but we don’t have to be stressed out all time and worried about screwing up.
“It’s nice to have that cushion and hopefully we can get another three next weekend.”