Clemson took two of three at Pittsburgh to inch past Wake Forest (who hosted Florida State this weekend) and grab hold of 4th place in the ACC. They’ll host Miami next weekend before ending the ACC schedule with series against Notre Dame and Boston College. A series win over Miami combined with the soft remaining schedule could boost them into 3rd place in the ACC.
Entering this series, Clemson was 2nd in the ACC in stolen bases, 3rd in home runs, and 1st in batting average, but only 8th and 11th in OBP and BB respectively. As you might expect from those stats, Clemson ran wild on the bases collecting 6 steals, while only getting caught once (attempt to steal 3rd base by Shane Kennedy on Sunday). They took 7 walks over the 3 games. Tyler Krieger had himself a great series hitting 6-12 with 2 runs scored.
The Tiger’s 1-2 punch atop the rotation was once again impressive as Crownover pitched 8 innings of two-run baseball on Friday and Gossett followed it up with a complete game, 3-hit shutout. That is a 1-2 punch that can make a run at Omaha, but the bullpen will need to step up on the days when others are pitching. One factor that has hurt Clemson all season has been the defense, but it looked much better in Pittsburgh as they only committed 1 error in the series.
Pittsburgh’s hitting had been struggling coming into the series and it didn’t get any better on Friday or Saturday. As such, it wasn’t surprising to see them resort to small ball to scratch a few runs across, however on at least four occasions they failed to advance the runner on attempted sacrifice bunts. To give away precious outs to advance base runners is a coach’s calculated risk, but they likely assume a better success rate.
Clemson’s Sunday pitching was brutal. Although Jake Long was excellent through 4IP, we need him to go deeper into games given the makeup of this team and the struggles in the bullpen. In his past four starts before this one he went 5.o, 1.0, 6.0, and 5.1 innings. In this one, he got through 4.2IP scattering 6 walks including 4 in the 4th. Bates, Erwin, and Bostic continued the free passes as Clemson pitching combined for 12 walks and 4 hit batters.
Matthew Crownover got the start for Clemson and opposed Pittsburgh’s Joe Harvey. Crownover immediately ran into trouble as he loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the 1st. He limited the damage to 2 sacrifice flies that put Clemson behind, 0-2. Clemson struggled to score against Joe Harvey, but managed 1 in the fourth on a Chris Okey ground out to shortstop. They entered the seventh trailing 1-2, but started with singles from Chris Okey and Steve Wilkerson. After watching Pittsburgh struggle with bunts all night (popping out on two bunts and “earning” a single on a third that was popped up and not caught) Shane Kennedy laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third. Joe Harvey then exited the game as Pitt turned to the bullpen for Jay Baum. With two runners in scoring position, Baum grounded it to the third baseman who looked to the runner breaking home, but inexplicably took the sure out at first allowing the tying run to score. It was a mistake by Pittsburgh and a major gift to Clemson. Pitt got out of the inning with no further damage.
Matthew Crownover exited with the score knotted 2-2 after 8IP with both runs coming against him in the 1st inning. Freshman Drew Moyer came on in relief and continued to be Clemson’s best middle reliever as he held the Panthers at bay as Clemson tried to put something together.
Steven Duggar started the 11th inning with a single and advanced to second with his 17th steal of the season, remarkable for a cleanup hitter. After Okey and Wilkerson grounded out–with Duggar advancing to third on the latter–Shane Kennedy came through with a heroic two-out RBI double to give Clemson a 3-2 lead. With Matt Campbell struggling with arm soreness, Drew Moyer stayed in the game to pitch the bottom of the 11th. He closed out the game, though he earned a win rather than a save, and scattered three hits across three scoreless innings.
Clemson 3-2 (Box Score)
Saturday’s baseball game at Pitt started similarly to Friday, though this time it was Clemson who loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning. They scored 1 on a Chris Okey fielder’s choice and plated 2 more on a Steve Wilkerson blooper that landed between the second baseman and the center fielder. Daniel Gossett, taking his turns on Saturday now, made the lead last. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning, and even then it was promptly erased with a 6-4-3 double play that was so pretty it had the ESPN3 announcers praising the “great” Clemson middle infield defense despite 29 errors (from Krieger and Wilkerson combined) on the season.
Pittsburgh tried to claw away using small ball, but failed to advance the runner in the 5th with an attempted sacrifice bunt, continuing the same issues from a night before. With Matt Campbell unavailable, Gossett took the mound in the 9th and completed the game with a little help from Jon McGibbon, who earlier entered as a pinch hitter, and made a sliding catch in foul territory for out number 27.
Daniel Gossett finished with a complete game 3-hit shutout. He struck out 7 and only walked 1.
3-0 Clemson (Box Score)
Jake Long got the start on Easter Sunday, and was dominant through 4IP before losing command in the 5th. We’ve seen him dominant across a couple innings before fatiguing out or losing control in the middle innings before (e.g., Wake Forest).
In those first 4 innings Clemson’s offense didn’t do much. In the second, Mike Triller, who started in LF while Weston Wilson had the day off, walked to load the bases, but Tyler Slaton failed to deliver the timely two-out RBI, instead softly grounding out to the pitcher.
In the third inning, Tyler Krieger doubled then advanced to third base on a Duggar ground out. With one out, Okey ground it sharply to third. The Pitt third baseman looked Krieger back to the base and then fired to first for the out. Shockingly, Krieger took off on the throw. The first baseman delivered it home beating Kreiger by a split second, but Krieger slid around the tag, making the over-aggressive play work out.
That 1-0 lead wouldn’t last past the 5th. After a sacrifice bunt moved runner into scoring position, the walks began pouring in. Long walked the next batter before surrendering a two RBI double to Boo Vazquez making it 1-2. Long then walked the next 3 batters, before Clay Bates relieved Long. Given Long’s recent history, one could argue the bullpen should have been ready sooner. Upon entering, Bates walked the first batter he faced forcing in another run to create a 1-4 deficit. He wouldn’t surrender a two RBI single before escaping the inning.
Chris Okey responded with a moonshot home run over the left field wall to respond, but Clemson pitching crumbled, making it moot. Without Drew Moyer, who pitched three innings on Friday or Matt Campbell who was unavailable all weekend the bullpen couldn’t keep runners off the basepaths. Jake Long finished with a 4.2IP, 6ER, 6BB, 1HBP line. Clay Bates finished with 1BB, 1HBP, and 3EP over 0.2IP. Zack Erwin also walked and hit a batter and Alex Bostic allowed 5 runs in mop up duty.
Pittsburgh 13-4 (Box Score)