Kyle Parker supposedly had his shoes off, ready to be pinch-hit for, when Clemson coach Jack Leggett received word Parker was one hit shy of tying the school record for consecutive hits in official at-bats.
So Leggett said he made up an excuse to keep Parker in during the bottom of the eighth of Wednesday’s lopsided 13-2 victory against Western Carolina. Oblivious to the record, Parker smoked one into the outstretched glove of Western Carolina’s third baseman to end his streak of hits in eight straight at-bats, walks excluded.
“I got robbed on that one,” Parker said.
He had already gotten his money’s worth.
Parker’s momentous week continued Wednesday, as the dual quarterback/right-fielder went 4-for-5 while cranking a grand slam as part of a six-run first inning that vaulted Clemson (25-12) to its fourth straight win.
In conjunction, the Tigers extended their recent scoring onslaught. Since failing to reach six runs in roughly half of their opening 27 games, the team has topped six in each of its last 10 contests.
Junior designated hitter Wilson Boyd added three RBIs on two hits, while junior first baseman Ben Paulsen matched Parker’s team-lead with his eighth homer of the year as well.
“I think we’ve seen the ball better the last two weeks than we have all season long,” Leggett said. “It’s getting contagious from top to bottom, so I feel good about that.”
Western Carolina (20-14), where Leggett served as coach from 1983-91, had been a thorn in its protégé’s side, having split their annual two-game series each of the previous three years.
But the sizzling Tigers had no trouble dispatching the Southern Conference’s third-place squad this year, outscoring the Catamounts 24-3 in back-to-back days.
Since emerging as the early leader for the football team’s starting quarterback job Saturday, Parker has gone 11-for-18 (.611) with three homers and 13 RBIs in five games.
He had already been hot, hitting .393 with eight RBIs the previous seven games. But it seems beyond coincidence that Parker has suddenly ratcheted his plate prowess to another level.
Clemson returns to conference play Friday with the start of a three-game weekend series at Virginia Tech. Leggett said freshman lefty Chris Dwyer will start Friday’s game, junior righty Justin Sarratt will go Saturday, and one of two sophomores – lefty Casey Harman or righty Graham Stoneburner – will start Sunday.
The Tigers racked up all the scoring they would need before even recording an out in the bottom of the first.
A leadoff walk, Addison Johnson single and another walk loaded the bases for Paulsen, whom Western Carolina freshman righty Kyle Stewart summarily walked as well to put Clemson up 1-0.
Parker then drilled his first pitch over the center field wall for his eighth homer of the year and the team’s first grand slam of the season.
A subsequent walk ended Stewart’s outing, and Boyd followed with an RBI double for a 6-0 lead.
It marked the most runs the Tigers have produced in an inning this season.
The school’s record for consecutive hits (nine) belongs to Bob Pauling, who did it in 1983. Coincidentally, Pauling also played football for the Tigers as a place-kicker.