Clemson scored single runs in the 8th and 9th innings to overcome a 2-1 deficit and beat USC 3-2 Friday night at Founders Park in the opener of the three game rivalry series. The Tigers are off to a 9-0 start, the first time in 20 years they have opened a season 9-0. The Gamecocks fall to 7-2. A sellout crowd of 8242 were on hand to take it all in.
USC led 2-1 thru seven innings as starter Will Sanders scattered six hits and struck out 14, the most strikeouts by a Gamecock pitcher since Adam Hill struck out 14 Tigers in 2018.
Josiah Sightler gave the Gamecocks their final lead with a mammoth home run to right in the bottom of the sixth, his first career hit against Clemson. The homer was measured at 431 feet.
Wesley Sweatt replaced Sanders in the top of the 8th, and after getting the first two outs, he gave up a tying home run to Jonathan French down the left field line, just inside the pole.
John Gilreath went to the mound for USC in the top of the 9th. His first batter was Dylan Brewer and he hit a routine ground ball to first that Sightler misplayed for an error. Brewer was sacrificed to second and remained there while Caden Grice struck out. With two outs, the Gamecocks intentionally walked Cooper Ingle for a third time (his 4th walk of the game) to pitch to Bryan Hawkins. Hawkins made them pay with a single up the middle that plated Brewer with what turned out to be the winning run.
USC had a chance to tie in the bottom of the ninth against Ryan Ammons. Elijah Lambros was hit to lead off the inning and went to second on a wild pitch. But the Gamecocks, as had been the case all night, could not buy a hit with a runner in scoring position. Michael Braswell struck out, pinch hitter Cole Messina popped up in the infield to third and Braylen Wimmer flied to right to end the game.
The Gamecocks were 0-10 with runners in scoring position and 0-17 with runners on base. They left 10 runners on base. Conversely, four of Clemson’s eight hits came with two outs, and all three runs scored with two outs. But, the Tigers also had problems getting runners home and left a dozen on base.
Reliever Alex Edmondson earned the win for Clemson working 1.1 innings and allowing one hit. He’s 2-0. Ammons picked up his 3rd save. Gilreath took the loss.
The teams will play game two of the series Saturday afternoon at Segra Park in Columbia. Clemson will be the designated home team. The Tigers will start Nick Hoffman. The Gamecocks have not announced their starter.