CLEMSON — Until he enrolled at Clemson for the fall semester, Shane Kennedy never had seen a game at Doug Kingsmore Stadium or met coach Jack Leggett.
Kennedy introduced himself properly Friday evening with a two-out, two-run home run in the eighth inning, lifiting Clemson to a 2-0 win against William & Mary in the season-opener.
A transfer from Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Fla., Kennedy admitted to being mystified and occasionally frustrated during practice by Clemson’s spacious field, “a graveyard” where fly balls died.
“When I got here at the beginning of the year, you’d get ahold of the ball thinking it has to go somewhere and it would be a regular pop to left field,” he said. “It was killing me.”
But after Steve Wilkerson reached on a bunt with two out in the eight, Kennedy ripped the first pitch from senior right-hander Brett Koehler into the left-center field bleachers.
“It was amazing,” said starting pitcher Daniel Gossett, who turned in an ace performance, matching Koehler for nearly seven innings before William & Mary flinched.
“I got a little confidence, got the first one under my belt, I can just go from there,” said Gossett, a sophomore right-hander from Byrnes High. Throwing 61 of his 76 pitches for strikes, Gossett limited William & Mary to four hits and a walk over 62/3 innings. He struck out six and allowed two runners to second base.
“My changeup was working good. My slider wasn’t exactly where I wanted it,” he said. “I’m just trying to take it one day at a time.”
Koehler, a senior, was equally effective, allowing four other hits and stranding six runners. He fell down when Wilkerson dropped a bunt near the third base line, then Kennedy took a level swing and pumped life into the “graveyard.”
“I just wanted him to swing the bat flat. He was a little uphill the first two or three times, trying to do a little too much,” Leggett said. “Stevie laid down the bunt and extended that inning. I told (Kennedy) to hit the ball flat, hit the ball with some backspin.
“That first pitch, he hit it.”
Leggett admitted it was unusual to sign a player he’d never seen, but since it’s tough for him to get away during the season, he relies on his assistants. Bradley LeCroy recruited Kennedy with an assist from former Clemson players Brad Miller and Dominic Attanasio who, like Kennedy, attended Olympia High in Orlando.
“He was busy, we were busy. Bradley went down to see him a couple of times,” Leggett said. “When he showed up, that was the first time I met him.
“It happens once in a while.”