The Clemson Tigers won their first series of the 2014 season, taking 2 of 3 over the Eastern Michigan Eagles. After falling 6-5 in extra innings in the season opener on Friday, Clemson rallied to win the next two, finishing strong in college baseball’s opening weekend.
The opening day loss to EMU was disappointing to say the least. The Tigers, who came in to the season as the 13th ranked team nationally, jumped out to an early lead, led by Freshman Chris Okey’s two RBI single in the bottom of the first inning. The Tigers added to the lead in the 3rd with an RBI single by Steven Duggar, and in the 5th when Tyler Krieger scored on a Garrett Boulware ground out to first base.
Starting pitcher Daniel Gossett was removed from the game at the start of the 6th inning after giving up just one run on four hits while striking out four in five innings of work. That very inning, the Eagles pushed four runs across the plate, giving them a 5-4 advantage over the Tigers. That lead held until the bottom of the ninth inning, when Mike Dunster hit a pinch hit home run to tie the game at 5.
The Tigers were unable to capitalize on the momentum, giving up an unearned run in the top of the 10th, and ultimately losing by a final score of 6-5.
While the loss could have been cause for a major opening weekend letdown, the Tigers were able to band together and take the final two games of the series, salvaging a 2-1 record against the Eagles.
In Saturday’s game, Matthew Crownover of Clemson opposed Eastern Michigan’s Sterling Sharp. Sharp was roughed up for 3 runs in just 2.2 innings, while Crownover went 5 innings, giving up just 1 earned run. Zack Erwin came on in relief of Crownover for the Tigers, and went the final 4 innings to earn the save.
Sunday’s bout was a much more high scoring affair. The Tigers won 9-7, putting up 3 runs in both the first, and eighth innings, en route to the victory. Garrett Boulware, Jay Baum, and Chris Okey starred for the Tigers as each hitter drove in multiple runs. Boulware and Baum each drove in two, while the Freshman Okey continued the hot start to his Clemson career with three RBI. Neither starting pitcher made it out of the third inning, but the Tigers were able to stymie the Eastern Michigan hitters the rest of the way, giving up just 2 earned runs over the final 6.1 innings. Matt Campbell pitched the final 2.2 innings to pick up the win for the Tigers.
This was perhaps not the start that Clemson was looking for to the 2014 campaign, as a series sweep would have been very nice; but the fact that the Tigers were able to rally to win the final two games bodes well for the rest of the season. The baseball season is much longer than most other college sports, and there will undoubtedly be a lot of obstacles as the season progresses. Perseverance and resiliency are keys to a team making a deep run in the NCAA tournament and ultimately making it to Omaha for the College World Series. Winning two out of three in the season’s first series, especially after dropping the opener, is a sign that great things may be to come for the 2014 Clemson Tigers.