COLUMBIA, S.C. — It was no secret Clemson’s pitching was going to struggle in Game 3 of its weekend series against rival South Carolina. Unfortunately for the Tigers, their bats did too.
Clemson went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position on Sunday, while the 23rd-ranked Gamecocks hit three home runs in a 7-1 victory at Founders Park in Columbia. With the win, USC clinched the series 2-1, thanks to Saturday’s come-from-behind victory at Fluor Field in Greenville.
Clemson opened the three-game series with a win at Doug Kingsmore Stadium on Friday night.
Already in a jam heading into the weekend due to Ryan Ammon’s muscle strain in his throwing hand, the Tigers got in another pitching jam when Caden Grice was tossed in the top of the ninth inning in Game 2 for arguing balls and strikes.
Grice was in line to start Sunday’s game in Columbia, but Clemson was forced to start righty Billy Barlow instead as Grice was forced to miss Sunday’s game due to an NCAA rule that requires players who are tossed to sit out the following game.
“We could have used him on the mound today for sure,” Clemson head coach Erik Bakich said. “But that is no excuse. We will use him as a pitcher moving forward. That had nothing to do with anything offensively, and it had nothing to do with our ability to get ahead of hitters today.”
Bakich said he has not made any decision on if Grice will miss more than just the South Carolina game.
“I don’t know. We will see,” he said. “We do not condone that type of behavior. We tell our guys, and we have said it from day one, this is part of the neck up stuff. We are not that bad that we need every call from the umpires.
“We will address that internally from the team. I don’t know what the answer to that question is, but I do not like our body language on calls that do not go our way from the umpiring crew and that is something we will work on.”
Barlow held his own for two innings, but the result was not as good for reliever Ty Olenchuk.
The Irmo, S.C. native gave up three runs on two hits in two innings of work. Barlow also gave up a home run, as the Gamecocks got two home runs from Gavin Casas and a sole shot from Talmadge LeCroy.
Casas and LeCroy hit back-to-back home runs in the fifth inning off Olenchuk.
For the first time in the weekend, USC pitching cooled down Clemson’s bats. The Tigers were just 2-for-17 with runners on base, while Blake Wright, Chad Fairey and Will Taylor went a combined 0-for-10.
Fairey and Taylor combined to leave five of the Tigers’ nine runners stranded.
Clemson finished the afternoon with six hits.
“Tip of the hat to South Carolina. They totally outplayed us in every facet today,” Bakich said. “They swung the bats very well. They completely shut us down offensively.”
For the first time in the three-game series, the Gamecocks (11-1) scored first. With two outs in the bottom of the first inning, Messina singled up the middle to score Wimmer for a 1-0 lead.
Clemson tied the game, 1-1, in the top of the second inning when Bertram got a two-out single through the left side, plating Taylor.
But on the first pitch in the South Carolina second, Clemson starter Billy Barlow had his fastball rocketed to left field by Casas. The first baseman’s home run gave the Gamecocks a 2-1 lead at the time.
USC extended its lead to 5-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning, when it got back-to-back home runs from Casas and LeCroy. Casas hit his second home run of the game, a two-run shot to straightaway centerfield, while LeCroy took a 2-2 offering from Ty Olenchuk to left field.
Things got worse for the Tigers (5-6) in the fifth inning. With one out, Denny doubled off the fence in left centerfield to score Wimmer for a 6-1 advantage.
Stat of the game: With the Gamecocks winning the baseball series, it marked the first time South Carolina swept Clemson in football, men’s basketball, and baseball in the same academic year since 2011-’12.
Player of the Game: Gavin Casas hit two home runs and drove in three runs to lead the Gamecocks.
Key Moment: With the Tigers trailing 2-1 in the fourth inning, second baseman Riley Bertram dropped a sure out when Ethan Petry lined to second base with one out. Casas then took a 2-0 offering from Olenchuk to centerfield to extend USC’s lead to 4-1. LeCroy followed with a solo home run to left field on the next at-bat.
Up next: Clemson will return to Doug Kingsmore Stadium on Tuesday, as it hosts East Tennessee State. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.
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