CLEMSON - Jack Leggett turned away and shook his head when Wilson Boyd's risky bunt attempt strayed foul.
Thirteenth-ranked Clemson had the go-ahead run on third with two outs in the eighth inning against No. 15 South Carolina, and the Tigers coach didn't think it was the proper time to take advantage of the third baseman playing deep.
Boyd's subsequent RBI chopper over the shortstop's head vaulted Clemson to a 4-3 victory on Friday night.
"It didn't work that way," Boyd said. "But I'm glad I got it done the other way."
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The Tigers (8-0) won the first game against the Gamecocks (5-3) in their reorganized series, which pits the rivals in a three-game weekend series for the first time since 2000.
The teams will play at Greenville's Fluor Field at 2 p.m. today and at Carolina Stadium at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Sophomore right-hander David Haselden sewed up the triumph with four innings of hitless relief as Clemson continued its best start since opening 2002 with a 13-0 record.
Catcher Kyle Enders went 3-for-4 with two RBIs for USC, which has lost three straight in the series after winning nine of the previous 10.
"You walk a guy, have a passed ball, those usually come back to haunt you," Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said. "And those came back to bite us."
After rallying for the tying run in the seventh inning, Clemson had a pep in its step when leadoff hitter Chris Epps began the eighth by drawing a walk from USC sophomore reliever Michael Roth.
Mike Freeman's sacrifice bunt and a passed ball moved Epps to third with one out, and Clemson's Nos. 3 and 4 hitters in line for chances to be the hero. But after Jeff Schaus struck out, Roth intentionally walked cleanup hitter Kyle Parker to get to Boyd and force a lefty-lefty matchup.
Boyd, in the midst of a 5-for-24 (.208) slump, attempted to bunt Epps home, a move Leggett said he tried "on his own."
"When Will hits lefties, he hits pretty good, so I was pretty comfortable when he came into the box," Leggett said.
It was a 2-1 count when Boyd slapped a grounder that bounced over the head of shortstop Bobby Haney and into left field.
"You play the numbers and you play the personnel," Tanner said. "We got a ground ball, but it went in the hole, so you give them credit."
USC snagged a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning, recovering from a dubious first few pitches from starter Blake Cooper, who surrendered a pair of solo homers within the first three batters.
Epps led off the first inning by slicing Cooper's second pitch over the left field fence for his first homer. Two batters later, Schaus drilled a solo shot beyond the right-center bleachers to give the Tigers a 2-0 advantage.
USC scratched back even in the third after Whit Merrifield and Jackie Bradley Jr. produced consecutive one-out singles. Runners were at the corners with two outs when Enders plated both with a double into the right-field corner.
Adrian Morales' sac fly in the fifth inning pushed the Gamecocks ahead 3-2, but the Tigers recovered in the seventh when Jason Stolz fired an RBI grounder under the glove of third baseman Christian Walker, scoring Brad Miller from second with two out.
That prompted Tanner to pull Cooper in favor of Roth.
Cooper struck out seven and yielded seven hits in 6 2/3 innings, lasting nearly two innings longer than Clemson's No. 1 pitcher, Casey Harman, despite throwing the same number of pitches (94). Harman gave up eight hits and three earned runs in five innings, fanning five.
"There have been a lot of good ones, and tonight was a classic," Tanner said. "They jumped on us in the first inning, and I thought they were going to knock the fences down. The good news was, when you have a veteran like Blake Cooper out there, he's going to battle for you and give you a chance, and he did."
USC didn't have an answer for Haselden, who has shown improved command of his fastball in not allowing a hit in three appearances this season.
"He's been consistent for us," Leggett said. "He's just in control, a level-headed pitcher for us, and you know what you're going to get every time. He kept his poise in a really tough situation for us tonight."