Clemson will be glad when UCF’s bus rolls away from Doug Kingsmore Stadium toward US-76 and out of sight. The Golden Knights hammered the Tigers 13-6, Sunday, to complete a three-game sweep and halt the Tigers early-season momentum. Defense was again an issue for Clemson (4-3) as UCF plated five unearned runs in the seventh inning.
The Tigers surrendered three runs in the top of the first but fired back with four runs of their own in the bottom half. But UCF kept the pressure on and led 6-5 after five innings. Catcher Cooper Ingle tied it back up with a solo homer in the sixth. The seventh inning turned the tide, however, as Clemson stubbed its toe time and again to help the Knights build an insurmountable lead.
Lefthander B.J. Bailey entered the game and promptly gave up two singles, a stolen base and a walk without registering an out. Ty Olenchuk took over with the bases loaded and it looked for a moment as if disaster would be averted thanks to the righthander’s electric stuff. Olenchuk fanned the first two batters he faced on just seven pitches. With Olenchuk looking unhittable, the next batter laid down a bunt. Olenchuk fielded it but threw the ball away to usher in a pair of runs. Olenchuk then uncorked a wild pitch that yielded another run. A walk, a steal and a single later and UCF had scored twice more. In total, the Knights scored five runs in the frame, all unearned.
It was eerily similar to the eighth inning Clemson suffered through in Game 2 of the series, Saturday. The defensive woes must be addressed, but from an offensive standpoint, center fielder Cam Cannarella (.446), first baseman Caden Grice (.321), shortstop Benjamin Blackwell (.440) and third baseman Blake Wright (.423) are all off to hot starts.
The Tigers need to shake off the disappointment quickly as one the Big South’s top teams, USC Upstate (6-2), is up next in a neutral site contest. First pitch from Fluor Field in Greenville is scheduled for 4 p.m., Tuesday.