USC Gamecocks Baseball

Columbia regional: Liberty handles Clemson 8-3 in opener

Liberty senior catcher Trey Wimmer had the game of his life in his first-ever NCAA tournament game.

The Greenwood native drove in a career-high six runs with a home run and a double to propel the third-seeded Flames to an 8-3 victory against Clemson in the opening game of the Columbia Regional.

To make things even sweeter, it came against the team he grew up rooting for. His brother, Tyler, is a senior at Clemson, and his family grew up pulling for the Tigers.

“I grew up watching coach (Jack) Leggett and his teams being one of the most dominant teams over the last 10 years, so to get a win over a team of that caliber is a lot of fun,” Wimmer said. “Everybody wanted to play for Clemson or South Carolina when I was in high school. It was different to cheer against them, but it was a lot of fun to get the win.”

Wimmer is a two-time team captain and is in his fifth season. He missed the 2011 season due to a medical redshirt but has come back to be a team cornerstone.

He finished 2-for-4 with a sacrifice fly, a two-run double and a three-run home run for the Flames (35-27).

Wimmer put Liberty on the board in the first inning with his sacrifice fly to score Ashton Perritt.. He added a two-run double in the third that gave Liberty the lead for good, then capped his afternoon in the sixth when he crushed the first pitch he saw into the left-field bleachers for a three-run homer to make it 7-2.

In Wimmer’s first four at-bats, he saw five pitches.

“I’m proud of him being a South Carolina guy to come on this stage and play as well as he did,” Liberty coach Jim Toman said.

Clemson coach Jack Leggett said that was the game’s pivotal moment.

“The three-run home run in the sixth was sort of the dagger,” he said.

While Wimmer was a wrecking crew offensively, Liberty starter Josh Richardson limited the Tigers (39-21) to six hits and three runs in his third complete game of the season.

Richardson was shaky early, but after allowing a Steven Duggar RBI single with one out on the third, he retired 17 in a row. Duggar led off the ninth inning with a double to break the streak.

He finished off the game with one strike out and no walks in throwing 104 pitches — 70 for strikes. With his low-90’s fastball not at full strength, Richardson mixed in a lot of sliders with a two-seam fastball that tailed away from the left-handed hitters.

“Velocity doesn’t have to beat everybody,” Richardson said. “I spotted up and changed planes, and it worked out well.”

Leggett said his team didn’t take advantage of its opportunities.

“Their pitcher did a good job,” Leggett said. “I thought we had him on the ropes the first few innings, but he settled in with his two-seam fastball and we didn’t make many adjustments. We weren’t that good in all three phases of the game.”

Liberty now faces either USC or Saint Louis in the winner’s bracket game Saturday at 8 p.m. The Flames have won six straight after opening the Big South tournament with a loss to Radford.

Clemson must snap an offensive slump that has hampered them during their current six-game losing streak. The Tigers have scored 15 runs over that span and three runs in the past 24 innings.

“We got outplayed, it’s as simple as that,” Leggett said. “They got the big hits when they had too. When bad pitches were made, they hit them with men on base. That’s how you win ball games. It’s a simple story.”