For the first time since the 2010 baseball season, South Carolina did not defeat Clemson in their best-of-three regular-season series.
In a 7-0 victory Monday afternoon at Carolina Stadium, the Tigers won the rubber game behind a complete-game shutout by junior right-hander Brody Koerner, timely hitting in an 11-hit attack and flawless defense.
The Gamecocks managed four singles, went through five pitchers on the mound and made four errors in the infield.
“Over the course of three games, they deserved to win the series. They played better than we did. Koerner was extremely impressive,” Holbrook said. “We didn’t do enough offensively. Their better players stepped up and drove the ball. Their good hitters made plays, and our good hitters couldn’t do much. You’ve got to credit their pitching staff for that. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and get better.”
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Koerner (2-1) gave up four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts. Clemson’s two-through-five hitters went 8-for-19, as Steven Duggar and Reed Rohlman both had RBI doubles while Chris Okey drove in a pair of runs on a groundout and a sacrifice fly.
“Brody Koerner was outstanding on the mound. I’ve been coming down here a long time, and I don’t think we’ve ever seen anybody go from start to finish as in command as he was,” Leggett said. “We played really well offensively. We put together some innings and got some situational hits when we needed them. We ran the bases well, and we played some really good defense.”
The No. 12 Gamecocks, who went on to win the final two 2010 meetings against Clemson at the College World Series on the way to the national championship, dropped to 7-3 on the season, while the Tigers improved to 7-3.
South Carolina’s third and fourth hitters, Max Schrock and Kyle Martin, went a combined 0-for-8. Three other starters also went hitless.
“You have to tip your cap to their pitcher. He pretty much stuffed us. He was mixing pitches and threw all three for a strike,” Schrock said. “He kept all of our hitters off-balance, and their hitters executed a lot better than we did.”
In the sixth inning, when Clemson’s lead was 2-0, the Gamecocks put the first two runners on with a walk and a hit. But Schrock bounced into a double play, and Martin struck out to end the threat.
“Koerner came right out of the gate throwing strikes, and we just didn’t seem prepared for it,” Martin said. “We didn’t swing the bats very well like we had hoped. It is frustrating. It’s tough to see.”
Holbrook knows those two players have to step up in the big moments, and he hopes to quickly get them in a better frame of mind.
“Kyle and Max obviously know for us to be the team we want to be offensively, they have to swing the bat,” Holbrook said. “They’re not swinging it the way they are capable of right now. They’re putting a lot of pressure on themselves, and the game can be awfully cruel when you play it that way.”
The Gamecocks were shut out for the first time at Carolina Stadium.
“I can’t say it didn’t feel good,” Koerner said. “I kept it down, and that’s what got the ground balls.”
USC returns to Carolina Stadium on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. game against Charleston Southern, the first of five more home games this week. Holbrook knows he must find the right offensive combination, and the players realize they have to put the series loss behind them.
“If we keep dwelling on this one, it’ll snowball on us,” Schrock said. “We’ve got a lot of games this week. The only thing we can do now is look forward to those games and prepare ourselves a little bit better and make sure we don’t come out flat tomorrow. That can’t happen.”
The Tigers leave Columbia with the kind of feeling they haven’t had in five years.
“We put together a complete game against a good team,” Leggett said. “We happened to play just a little bit better this time around. I’m proud of our kids. They’ve been working hard, and they deserve it. We’ve got a good baseball team.”