One word that comes to mind on the Tigers’ two games in Nashville this weekend — embarrassing. Game one saw Clemson get pummeled 18-1 at the hands of Oregon. Game two was sure to hold better fortune for the Tigers, as they had their ace on the mound and were facing the fourth seeded Xavier Musketeers. Unfortunately, that sure fire fortune turned into yet another stunning loss.
After the devastating loss to Oregon on Friday, Clemson was poised to oust Xavier from NCAA Tournament play with Daniel Gossett (7-2) on the mound. Gossett has been the Tigers’ ace all year long, and was named to the Golden Spikes semifinalist list earlier this week. Head coach Jack Leggett sent Gossett to the hill Saturday with full confidence in his junior to right the ship.
In what should have been a scoreless first, Xavier was able to push across one run on a two out pop up behind short. Shortstop Jay Baum ventured out, left fielder Garrett Boulware came in, and the ball simply dropped. While Baum appeared to lose the ball in the sunlight, Boulware should have called off the Clemson shortstop from the start. Instead, the ball fell between the two and the Musketeers were out to an early 1-0 lead.
Boulware and Baum made up for the dropped fly ball when they each served up a left field double in the top of the fourth inning to tie the game at one.
Weston Wilson then made a beautiful diving play at third to start off the bottom of the fourth, and Gossett got a strikeout to end the inning. It appeared at this point that the Tigers were in full control.
The top of the fifth was good to the Tigers once again. With two outs and nobody on, Tyler Krieger turned a would be single to right center field into a hustle double. He then went to third on a wild pitch, and was singled home by Steven Duggar, giving Clemson a 2-1 lead.
With their first lead of the game, and just their second in Nashville (yes the Tigers actually led 1-0 before giving up 18 unanswered runs to the Ducks), Clemson hoped for a 1-2-3 inning out of Gossett. Instead, Xavier was able to push two runs across and grab the lead right back, making it 3-2 Musketeers.
A lightning delay halted the game in the seventh with Jon McGibbon on 2nd base and Mike Dunster at the plate with just one out. When the game resumed, nearly two hours later, Dunster grounded out and Tyler Slaton flew out to end the scoring threat.
The bottom half of the frame began with a diving stop by Mike Dunster at third, a play on which he injured his left shoulder. Dunster was unable to complete the play and get the runner at first, giving Xavier a lead off runner on first. The following Musketeer batter laid a bunt down that pitcher Drew Moyer threw high and into the baseline at first base. McGibbon was unable to handle the throw, giving Xavier runners on first and second with no outs. After the runners advanced to second and third, a single in the hole between short and third scored them. Boulware approached the ball too aggressively, missed it, and allowed the batter to get all the way to third on the play. A wild pitch to the following hitter allowed Xavier to score again, pushing the deficit to 6-2.
Krieger started the eighth off with yet another double, giving the Tigers some hope at a comeback. After a Steven Duggar strikeout, Steve Wilkerson came to the plate and bombed a home run over the right field fence to cut the lead to 6-4. That would be all the Tigers would get.
A Jon McGibbon lead off single in the ninth was put to waste after a Chris Okey fly out, a Shane Kennedy strikeout, and a Slaton fly out ended the Clemson season.
The performance in Nashville by the Tigers was embarrassing, plain and simple. The defense in particular was putrid, and the bullpen work in game one was nothing short of atrocious. There is going to be a lot to think about for this Clemson team from now until 2015′s opening day. One thing is for certain, Clemson has no one to blame but themselves for how the season finished in Nashville this weekend.
- This is the first time Clemson has gone 0-2 in the NCAA Tournament since 1981.
- Clemson committed four errors in two games in Nashville.
- The Tigers finish the 2014 season with a 36-25 record.
- Clemson is now 0-1 all time vs. both Oregon and Xavier.