Western Carolina led Clemson 6-0 going to the bottom of the third at Doug Kingsmore Stadium Friday night in their first round NCAA regional game. The Tigers hardly noticed. A ten run third, a five run fifth and a three run sixth put the Tigers comfortably on their way to a 21-10 win and a meeting with Oklahoma State Saturday night.
The win is Clemson’s tenth in a row and breaks a five game NCAA Tournament losing streak. It’s also the Tigers first tournament win at home since 2011. The Tigers are now 43-18.
How about this for numeric symmetry: Clemson allowed a combined 18 straight runs by Florida State (last Sunday) and Western Carolina, then responded with its own string of 18 unanswered runs against the Catamounts.
Clemson starter Charlie Barnes was the benefactor of all the offense. He gave up a two run homer in the second and in the third allowed three singles, hit a bitter and threw a wild pitch. That combined with two errors behind him led to four runs and a 6-0 WCU lead.
Then came the bottom of the third. The Tigers sent 13 to the plate and 10 scored. Freshman sensation Seth Beer had the biggest blow with a grand slam. Chris Okey followed that with the first of his two homers on the night. Chris Williams also had a two run single and Weston Wilson a one RBI single during the rally. Runs also scored on a hit batsman and a bases loaded walk.
Mercifully, we had a scoreless fourth inning but the fireworks returned in the fifth thanks to a three run homer by Williams to cap a five run inning. Williams had five RBIs on the night.
Okey slammed his second homer of the game, a three run shot, in the sixth to plate the the final three runs of Clemson’s 18 run surge. And after Western scored three in the top of the seventh, Mike Triller hit a two run homer and Eli White a solo homer in the bottom of the inning giving the Tigers six home runs on the night.
And for good measure, Triller delivered blast #7 in the bottom of the eighth, a two run shot following the Tigers’ 16th walk of the night. They finished with 17 free passes.
The seven homers are one off the school record set against USC in 1962 but are a Clemson record for home runs in a NCAA Tournament game. And the 24 runs ties a Clemson record for runs in a NCAA Tournament game.
Barnes settled in after those early six runs. He only allowed two hits after that before leaving in the seventh with the bases loaded and one out. Paul Campbell allowed those inherited runners to score before getting out of the inning. Barnes earned the victory to improve to 6-4.
The Tigers will play Oklahoma State Saturday night at 7:00 PM in the winner’s bracket. The Cowboys shutout out Nebraska Friday afternoon 6-0. Clate Schmidt will start for the Tigers who will be the home team.