Clemson held off a stiff challenge from Coastal Carolina to stay alive in the NCAA Tournament and set up another postseason matchup against arch-rival USC this afternoon. The Tigers beat the Chanticleers 5-3 Sunday afternoon in an elimination game at the Columbia Regional.
Clemson (35-27) was led by shortstop Josh Stolz who homered twice and drove in three runs to lead the offensive attack. Stolz, the number nine hitter in the order, led off the third inning with a solo homer and followed that with hit a two run blast in the fourth that put the Tigers on top for good.
Clemson scored three runs in that fourth inning, all with two outs. In two games against Coastal in this Regional the Tigers scored 16 runs and all but four of those runs came with two outs.
Clemson gave Dominic Leone the start on the mound and he came through with seven strong innings, allowing three runs, two of which were earned, on six hits. He struck out six and walked four. Leone threw 127 pitches before he was replaced by Scott Firth in the 8th.
AUDIO: Clemson press conference [6:11]
AUDIO: Coastal Carolina press conference [11:11]
Coastal Carolina led off the scoring in the bottom of the first inning when Ted Blackman scored on a Daniel Bowman sacrifice fly. Clemson tied it with the Stolz homer in the third, but the Chanticleers reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the inning when Blackman parked a one out homer in the right field concourse.
Clemson tied the score with a two out double by Brad Felder in the fourth inning and took the two run lead with Stolz followed with the two run homer to left.
Coastal cut the lead to one in the bottom of the fifth when Brian Pruett scored on a throwing error by Tigers second baseman Steve Wilkerson as he tried to convert what would have been an inning ending 6-4-3 double play.
Coastal put the tying run on third base with one out in the sixth and had the equalizer 90 feet away with two outs in the eight and failed to convert each time.
In the top of the 9th Clemson picked up an insurance run when “Tiger Phil” Pohl delivered a two-out RBI single to score Thomas Brittle, who had reached base with a two out walk.
Firth struck out the side in order in the 9th to close out the win for Clemson and earn his third save of the season. Leone earned the win to move his record to 7-4 this year.
The loss ends Coastal Carolina’s season. The Chants finish with a 42-18 record.
Clemson will be the home team against USC in the afternoon game. The Tigers have to beat the Gamecocks twice to advance. If Clemson wins the first game the two teams will play a winner take all game tomorrow night at 7:00.