Chad Holbrook: 'We lost the battle this weekend'
The decision to not intentionally walk Seth Beer in the ninth inning and the inability to execute an intentional walk in the 11th proved costly for South Carolina in a 5-3 loss to Clemson Sunday afternoon at Founders Park.
The Tigers were down to their final strike in the top of the ninth when Beer blasted a 3-2 pitch off Josh Reagan over the wall in right field to tie the game.
Clemson took the lead in the 11th when Tyler Haswell threw a wild pitch while trying to intentionally walk Beer with Logan Davidson on third.
The victory gives the Tigers a 2-1 series win over South Carolina for the third consecutive year.
“Sometimes baseball can be cruel. Sometimes it can be exhilarating,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said. “We were on the cruel end of it today.”
Reagan pitched away from Beer early on in the at bat and fell behind 3-0 before throwing two straight curveballs for strikes to run the count to 3-2. The next curveball hung over the middle of the plate and Clemson’s All-American outfielder didn’t miss it.
“I remember facing him Friday and he got me with that curveball that he had. I was kind of thinking about it throughout the whole at bat. I got in a 3-0 count and he kept throwing them,” Beer said. “Thankfully on the 3-2 count he threw one in my wheelhouse that I felt like I could do some damage with.”
Holbrook said going into the series that the Gamecocks would pitch to Beer “delicately if at all,” but he did not want to put the tying run on base and bring the go-ahead run to the plate on Sunday.
“You’re one strike away you’re going to take your chances,” Holbrook said. “I’m not walking the winning run left on left. If he hits a home run he ties it he doesn’t win it. He left the pitch up a little bit and a great player put a great swing on it.”
South Carolina had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth inning as the first two batters reached base for junior Alex Destino.
But Destino, who leads USC in RBIs with 10, was pulled from the game in favor of junior college transfer Justin Row.
Row was unable to get the bunt down, popping up to the catcher. After Jonah Bride grounded out to first to move runners to second and third, LT Tolbert was intentionally walked before Madison Stokes struck out with the bases loaded.
“My thought process there was I wanted to stay out of a double play,” Holbrook said. “Alex hits a lot of groundballs and he’s not a good bunter. I felt like if we got the runner to third base with less than two outs we were going to win the game, and Justin Row’s our best bunter. He just didn’t get it down.”
Clemson stranded a pair of runs in the top of the 10th inning before Matt Williams bounced into a double play with runners on first and second and one out to end the 10th.
In the 11th inning Logan Davidson was on third base with one out when the Gamecocks opted to intentionally walk Beer.
But USC reliever Tyler Haswell threw a pitch in the dirt that catcher Hunter Taylor was unable to handle to give Clemson its first lead of the day. The Tigers added an insurance run later in the inning on Chase Pinder’s RBI single to left.
The Gamecocks were retired in order in the bottom of the 11th.
“We have a kid out there that hasn’t been in that situation. That’s Ok. It’s difficult,” Holbrook said of Haswell’s wild pitch. “He hasn’t been out there before in that situation and obviously wasn’t very comfortable.”
TJ Hopkins went 3-for-5 with a pair of runs and was named USC’s MVP for the weekend. Beer was named Clemson’s MVP.
USC will return to action Tuesday when it hosts The Citadel at 7 p.m. at Founders Park.