CLEMSON — Clemson’s batting order was shuffled. A veteran reliever made a surprise start. Coach Jack Leggett even dusted off yesteryear’s head-first slide into his huddled team during pregame introductions.
The more the Tigers desperately tried to incite change, the more their fortunes — and No. 14 USC’s recent dominance — stayed the same.
Sticking to form with the three earlier meetings, the Gamecocks muscled to a 6-0 victory on Wednesday that was long on one-sided firepower and short on drama.
“We’ve played very well against those guys this year,” coach Ray Tanner said.
That was an understatement.
Starting pitcher Nick Godwin allowed three singles in 7ð innings, and USC (27-10) used a five-run fourth inning to clinch its seventh win in a row and complete its first season sweep of Clemson since 1985.
Adding insult to the wounded pride, the rout extended the Tigers’ school-record losing streak to 11 games — three of which USC accounted for.
Thus, for the first time since 1974, Clemson (18-19) dipped below .500 after the midway point in the regular season.
Once again, Leggett need look no further than his offense for an explanation.
Ben Paulsen’s ground ball single in the fourth stood as the team’s only hit through five innings as the Tigers never threatened to snap their school-record mark of 19 consecutive games scoring six runs or fewer.
Clemson was shut out for just the second time in the past 91 games against USC. The other occurred last season.
All of which led Leggett to praise the Gamecocks as the contrast to his beleaguered bunch — confident, experienced and offensively potent.
“Right now we just don’t have a whole lot of excitement going in our order, and we just have to get some guys stepping up and swinging the bat better,” Leggett said.
“I’m open for suggestions.”
Godwin had a hand in that malaise, picking up where he left off against the Tigers.
In last week’s 7-1 win, the senior from North Augusta allowed just four hits and one run in a career-long eight innings.
He struck out seven, his minimum the past four starts.
“It’s been a good run,” Godwin said. “I’m just glad we would get them when we’re kind of hot and they’re slumping.”
Of course, he received plenty of help from USC’s offense — albeit from the unlikeliest of sources.
After James Darnell’s sacrifice fly gave the Gamecocks a 1-0 advantage in the third, they pounced in a five-run fourth triggered by back-to-back solo homers from freshman left fielder Justin Hopper and freshman Scott Wingo, the team’s No. 8 and 9 hitters.
It was Hopper’s first homer and the second for Wingo, a Greenville native whose dad, Billy, was a two-time all-ACC baseball player at Clemson.
Clemson sophomore Justin Surratt, who led the bullpen in ERA (3.12) coming in, was sent out for his first career start with the Tigers devoid of other options.
Surratt lasted 3Ð innings, surrendering five runs on nine hits.
Extra bases. Clemson shortstop Stan Widmann was a late scratch because of what Leggett said was a sore neck possibly related to last year’s surgery. Widmann, who missed nearly all of last season after having a non-cancerous tumor removed from his vertebrae, jammed his neck when sliding back into first base during Tuesday’s night loss, Leggett said. Widmann is questionable for this weekend’s series at Duke. ... Godwin and Clemson sophomore center fielder Wilson Boyd were voted their teams’ respective MVPs for the season series. Boyd went 6-for-16 (.375) as only two Clemson players notched a single RBI in four meetings.
|Epps rf||3||0||0||0||Havens ss||5||1||3||0|
|Freeman 2b||4||0||1||0||Merrifield cf||4||2||3||1|
|Paulsen 1b||4||0||1||0||Smoak 1b||5||0||1||0|
|Parker dh||4||0||0||0||Darnell 3b||4||1||2||2|
|Boyd cf||4||0||1||0||Disher dh||5||0||0||0|
|Hogan c||3||0||0||0||Lail rf||5||0||1||0|
|Schaus lf||2||0||0||0||Enders c||5||0||0||0|
|Hinson 3b||3||0||0||0||Hopper lf||3||1||2||1|
|Sanders ss||0||0||0||0||Wingo 2b||4||1||1||1|
|Clemson||001||500||000||— 6USC||000||000||000||— 0|
E—Schaus; Sarratt. DP—Clemson 6; USC 10. 2B—Havens, Merrifield; Darnell 2. HR—Hopper; Wingo. SH—Merrifield. SF—Darnell
|Sarratt L, 1-2||3||Ð||9||5||5||0||3|
WP—Godwin 2. BK—Sarratt
Umpires: HP—Tony Walsh. 1B: Darrell Arnold. 3B: Jack Cox.
T: 2:26. A: 5,938.