Battling gusting winds and spring storms, Western Carolina nearly overcame a five-run deficit, scoring four runs in the home half of the fifth inning and trailed 6-4 before lightning halted the game in the top of the ninth leaving No. 18 Clemson with the two-run victory at Childress Field / Hennon Stadium. The game was called after a 38 minute delay, reverting to the last completed inning through the bottom of the eighth.
Prior to first pitch on Wednesday night, Western Carolina honored former head coach – and current Clemson skipper – Jack Leggett as the inspiration behind the “Leggett Number 7 Legacy” program which was started this season. Each season, one deserving WCU player will have the honor of wearing the No. 7 jersey, with this year’s recipient in senior Stephen Notaro.
Clemson (27-14), which took both games of the annual home-and-home series, jumped out to a 5-0 lead thanks to three runs in the top of the first inning and adding a two-spot in the top of the fifth. During the same span, WCU was held to one hit until rallying in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Cameron Dullnig opened the fifth by sharply singling up the middle on the first pitch of the inning before Cody Jones doubled to right center field to put runners at second and third with nobody out. Freshman Aaron Attaway then grounded out to second to drive home Dullnig from third to close the deficit to four, 5-1.
The next batter, freshman Macon Smith, walked to put runners at the corners ahead of Austin Schultz who laid down a sacrifice bunt attempt down the first base line. Richie Shaffer charged down the line, fielded the ball and threw home where Jones slide around the tag at home for the second run. Ross Heffley’s single loaded the bases where senior Matt Johns drove home Smith on an RBI single through the left side with Notaro plating the fourth run on a sacrifice fly to right.
Dullnig and Johns both finished 2-for-4 to lead the Catamounts with Jones’ double marking the Catamounts’ lone extra base hit of the night. Smith finished 1-for-1 with a walk after earning the start in left field.
WCU (17-21-1) remained within one run through both the sixth and seventh innings before Clemson manufactured a single run in the top of the eighth to stretch the margin back to two, 6-4. Tiger reliever Jonathan Meyer then fanned the three batters he faced in the bottom of the inning to send the game to the ninth where Jeff Schaus led off with a double. However, game officials and the umpiring crew called the players off the field due to lightning in the area and ending following the delay.
Sophomore Taylor Sandefur matched a season-high with six strikeouts for the Catamounts, tossing six innings in relief after being summoned from the bullpen in the top of the first. The Mechanicsville, Va., native scattered nine base hits while limiting the Tigers to two runs in relief of starter Morgan McKinney (0-1) who was tagged for three runs on two hits and a walk.
Adam Curtis pitched an inning and a third, working out of a two-on, no out jam in the seventh inning with a strikeout with seniors Andrew Chilcoat and Brandon Johnson also recording a third of an inning apiece.
Clemson reliever David Haselden (4-1) scored the victory after working two and two thirds out of the bullpen, holding the Catamounts scoreless with three hits. Meyer picked up his first save of the season after tossing a perfect eighth.