A week ago Clemson was riding a nine game winning streak, but now they’ve thrown the car in reverse and have dropped three straight. The latest blemish came Wednesday night in a 6-3 loss to NC State in their opening game at the ACC here in Durham. The Tigers still have two games left in this kooky pool play tournament format, but they will need some massive help to advance to Sunday’s title game.
The Tigers sent All-ACC and reigning conference pitcher of the week Daniel Gossett to the mound and for the first six innings the sophomore right hander was solid. It was looking like a pitchers duel with the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning until the Wolfpack shot ahead with a four spot. Gosset left the game with one out in the inning, a runner standing on second an a 6-2 hole. And that was pretty much that.
Clemson jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the 2nd inning when Shane Kennedy reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on a passed ball with two outs. In between he stole second and third base. But NC State answered in the bottom half of the inning with a solo homer from by Grant Clyde. The Wolfpack added an unearned run in the third to go up 2-1.
The Tigers had a chance to do some real damage in the sixth when they loaded the bases with nobody out and had cleanup hitter Garrett Boulware at the plate. Boulware grounded into a double play and only managed to bring in one run. It tied the game a 2-2, but clearly an opportunity was missed. That point was underscored when the Wolfpack put the quad on the board in the seventh.
In his next at bat Boulware blasted a no-doubter solo home run over the left field wall in the ninth inning. It was a great piece of hitting that came one plate appearance too late. “You wish you could pick your at-bats and put them where you want to but you can’t,” he said. “I really wanted to drive one, but he got me off-balance and I was out in front of it.”
After Boulware’s one out blast the next two Tigers went down without much fuss.
“It’s disappointing,” Tigers skipper Jack Leggett said. “You have to give them the credit I thought they played exceptionally well. Defensively, they made every play.They just did a better job of hitting with men on base. We had a big opportunity in the sixth inning with the bases loaded, but we were only able to come up with one run. When you get your hits in the ballgame makes all the difference and we struggled to do that with runners in scoring position.”
Now Clemson will take Thursday off and come back Friday night at 7:00 to face top seed North Carolina. The Tarheels play Miami at 3:00 Thursday. The Hurricanes will turnaround and play NC State Friday morning at 11:00. Depending on how those two games turn out Clemson could conceivable be eliminated from title contention before they face North Carolina. Even if that happens the Tigers will still face the Heels Friday night and close out the tournament Saturday afternoon against Miami.