Clemson traveled to South Bend riding a 5 game winning streak and protecting a perfect record in the month of May. Clemson traveled to South Bend to take on the lowly Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who had accumulated just 4 ACC wins in their inaugural season in the conference heading into the weekend series. Clemson greatly underwhelmed. The Irish had won just a single ACC series heading into the three game tilt with Clemson, but took the first and final games of the weekend to send the Tigers home disappointed.
Game 1 on Friday saw Pat Connaughton (2-5) outduel Clemson’s Matthew Crownover (6-5) as the Irish prevailed 2-1. Crownover went 7 strong innings, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they could not capitalize on any of their opportunities at the plate. Connaughton countered Crownover with 8 innings of his own, allowing just 1 run on 3 hits, but walked 8. Despite the high number of bases on balls, the Tigers were unable to push more than a single run across the plate.
Clemson came back in game 2 Saturday afternoon with right hander Daniel Gossett, who delivered perhaps his best performance of the season. Goose went 9 innings, allowing 4 hits while striking out 11, en route to a complete game shutout. It was exactly the kind of performance Clemson needed from its ace coming off of the defeat from the night before. Tyler Slaton went 2-4, scoring twice and driving in one, leading the Tigers on offense. Tyler Krieger, who was 2-4 with an RBI himself, also stole his 15th bag of the year, tops for the Tigers. Steve Wilkerson, Jon McGibbon, and Weston Wilson each added an RBI as Clemson took down Notre Dame 8-0.
The rubber match Sunday afternoon pitted Scott Kerrigan against Tiger lefty Zack Erwin. Clemson came out firing on all cylinders and looked poised to take the series early, scoring 3 in the first. However, by the bottom of the 1st, the lead was gone, as Notre Dame answered with 3 runs of their own. After the first, Kerrigan settled down, not allowing another run on his way to 8 innings pitched. The same could not be said for Erwin, who only made it through 1.2 innings while giving up 4 runs on 4 hits. The pitching did not improve for the Tigers once Erwin left the game. Garrett Lovorn gave up 2 runs in an inning of relief, Jake Long gave up 4 runs in 2 innings, and Alex Bostic allowed 1 run in 1 inning. The only bright spots for the Clemson pitching staff on Sunday were Drew Moyer and Clay Bates, who combined to deliver 2.2 scoreless innings.
What It Means
This series was abysmal for the Tigers. In the grand scheme of things, Clemson (31-21, 13-13) is still in decent shape for the ACC Tournament and beyond, but this series was a major letdown for the Tigers. Clemson came in red hot and perfect this month, facing a bottom feeder of the ACC. They left with a terrible series loss. There’s no other way around it. A series victory was expected, and Clemson did not come through. How the Tigers respond in their final 4 regular season games will be a huge indicator of how far this team may go in postseason play.
Clemson takes on Furman Tuesday night in Greenville at 7 pm before ending the season with a weekend series at DKS against Boston College.