CLEMSON — The two-out hit that powered No. 13 Clemson’s Friday night win — and propelled them to an early lead Saturday night — wasn’t there when they needed it to clinch the series over No. 2 Florida State.
FSU 4, Clemson 3
Tiger 'pen gives up late lead
The Seminoles (19-4, 7-2 ACC) evened the series with a 11-1 win earlier in the doubleheader day to set up the division-lead-deciding finale in the nightcap.
In the second session — down to his last strike and out in the second inning, junior Clemson left fielder Jay Baum lined a two-run double and scored off a Weston Wilson single for an early 3-0 advantage. Counting game one, seven of Clemson’s 13 runs had come via the two-out knock.
Playing with fire on the other side, Tigers right-handed starter Jake Long left the bases full of Seminoles in the previous half inning — then escaped more bags-full trouble by surrendering a single run in the sixth.
The 3-1 lead he left was quickly erased off sophomore relievers Zack Erwin and Clate Schmidt (2-4) with three runs on four hits.
Clemson’s last gasp at a rally came in the bottom of the inning, led by a Garrett Boulware one-out double. He made it to third on a ground ball out, but Seminoles two-sport star Jameis Winston (4) induced an inning-ending grounder and went to hold the Tigers to one hit over 2 1/3 innings total for the 4-3 win.
FSU has won two series in a row against Clemson after losing three in a row previously.
By the final count, the Seminoles left 11 on and Clemson eight — none more costly than in the sixth and seventh frames.
Bases loaded and one out in the sixth, Wilson went down swinging and then center fielder Tyler Slaton sent a fly-ball out to left field.
“We had some opportunities,” Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. “…We came up dry. That was a big important time of the game for us.”
Long’s no-decision was ninth in 18 weekend starts for Clemson. He allowed just three hits, with five walks and five strikeouts over six innings.
“Jake Long pitched really well for us,” Leggett said. “He got himself into a couple tough situations…We just lost control of the game in the seventh inning. It’s unfortunate. Because our starting pitching was pretty good today.”
In game one Saturday afternoon, the Seminoles jumped on Clemson sophomore lefty Matthew Crownover and then battered the Tigers’ relief to even the series.
Scoreless through two, a muffed double play turn from sophomore shortstop Tyler Krieger extended a third inning that went further south from there.
Four runs — all unearned — on three singles chased Crownover after 81 pitches. The 2 2/3 innings tied a career-low for a start from the South Carolina series. In the two, he gave up nine runs and just one earned.
The Seminoles tacked on two more in the fifth for a 6-1 edge. FSU junior left-hander Brandon Leibrandt cruised without an earned run over five innings and 47 pitches. Two Clemson pitchers threw 149 pitches in that span.
After the Seminoles had put up 11 runs on 18 hits, Leibrandt completed his second career complete-game, allowing four hits with a strikeout and two walks.
One bright spot in the weekend was freshman catcher Chris Okey’s play, hitting an even .500 in 12 at-bats to up his team-best total to 26 RBIs.
“They’re a good ballclub and so are we,” Okey said. “They took advantage of opportunities. It happens.
"That’s the number one team in the country and we shouldn’t have lost to them. They got away with one I think. They competed hard. They are a fantastic team.”
The difference between 2-1 and 1-2 was first and second place in the Atlantic Division this weekend — and maybe more momentum-wise down the road.
The Tigers are scheduled to play two more top-10-ranked clubs two of their next three series.
Clemson (14-9, 6-3) resumes play at Georgia on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
“It just crushes you,” Wilson said. “We’ll bounce back Tuesday against Georgia. We’ll look forward to that.”