USC sophomore lefthander Jordan Montgomery did his best Michael Roth impersonation Friday night against Clemson in the opener of the weekend rivalry series hurling eight innings of three hit ball and striking out a career high nine in a 6-0 victory. 74 of Montgomery’s 113 pitches went for strikes as he lowered his ERA on the season to 0.67 and improved his record to 3-0. He did not allow a runner to reach third.
Tyler Webb struck out the side in the ninth to complete the Gamecocks’ first shutout of the Tigers since a 6-0 victory in 2008. The top four hitters in Clemson’s order combined for 9 of the 12 strikeouts.
USC has won the last three against the Tigers and six of the last seven meetings.
Montgomery and Daniel Gossett were locked in a scoreless duel until the Gamecocks broke thru in the fifth. With one out and runners on second and third, Tanner English hit a sharp grounder to a drawn in Tyler Krieger at short. Krieger went to first on the play and pinch-runner Shon Carson beat the throw home to score the run.
A big play in the game occurred in the bottom of the fifth. With two outs, Clemson catcher Garrett Boulware hit a long fly ball to the fence in leftfield. Gamecock outfielder Graham Saiko made a play on the ball which bounced back onto the field. Boulware raced for third and beat the throw, but overslid the bag and was tagged out for the final out of the inning.
USC blew the game open with three runs in the seventh, all unearned thanks to a dropped fly ball with one out by leftfielder Shane Kennedy. Gossett walked the next two batters and was lifted for Joseph Moorefield who proceeded to walk in one run, give up a sacrifice fly to Max Schrock and an RBI single to LB Dantzler.
Clemson threatened in the bottom of the seventh getting runners on first and second with no outs, but Montgomery induced a pair of fly balls to left and a pop up on the infield to end the inning.
The Gamecocks added two insurance runs in the eighth, both unearned because of an error by pitcher Clay Bates who overthrew first base on a sacrifice bunt allowing Grayson Greiner to score from second. Saiko got the second run home with a sacrifice fly to center.
Montgomery and Webb set the Tigers down in order in the 8th and 9th innings to close out the victory.
The Gamecocks are now 7-1, the Tigers 5-3. The series resumes Saturday at 2:00 PM at Greenville’s Fluor Field. Righthander Colby Holmes will start for USC. Freshman righthander Clate Schmidt will start for Clemson.