COLUMBIA - Some pitching duel.
No. 11 Clemson mixed a sweet combination of patience and timely hits against South Carolina's lefty ace Jordan Montgomery. The Tigers scored six times in the first five innings Friday night against a team that hadn't allowed a run over its last five games.
Only to see No. 3 South Carolina storm back with a Grayson Greiner grand slam and other damage. The Gamecocks won the first game of a three-game series, 9-6, before a sellout crowd of 8,242 at Carolina Stadium and a regional television audience.
"That's kind of the calling card for Carolina baseball: Never give up," Greiner, a junior catcher and All-America candidate, said after a night that included five runs batted in and three hits.
Yes, South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook said, "Even when things didn't look good, I could still feel the energy in our dugout."
What a punch to Clemson's stomach. Jack Leggett's Tigers were up 6-1 with their own ace, starter Daniel Gossett, still on the mound.
"We'll be ready to play," Leggett said of Saturday's game. "It's a short night, and we have to bounce back from it. There's a lot of heartache during the year every year. There are some good moments and there are some tough moments. This is a tough moment for us."
South Carolina is 8-0, Clemson 6-2.
Game 2 of the series is Saturday (2:05 p.m.) at Greenville's Fluor Field. Game 3 is Sunday (4 p.m.) at Clemson's Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
Saturday's pitchers: Gamecocks sophomore left-hander Jack Wynkoop (2-0, 1.46 ERA) vs. Tigers sophomore left- hander Matthew Crownover (2-0, 2.70 ERA).
Greiner got the green light from Holbrook and drilled a 2-0 Gossett fastball over the left-field fence with one out in the fifth. The blast, Greiner's third of the season, cut Clemson's lead to 6-5.
The polished leader whom Holbrook said he "wouldn't trade for anyone" added two singles, one to give the Gamecocks a 7-6 lead in the sixth and another in South Carolina's one-run eighth.
Gamecocks center fielder Tanner English hit a solo home run, his first of the year, in the seventh.
"Once we got that big swing of the bat, we could feel the place light up a little bit," Greiner said. "We feed off that. You can see that hitting is contagious."
And things were going so well for Clemson.
Hot-hitting Tyler Krieger came through with a bases-loaded double in the fourth inning, a shot to left-center that knocked in three runs and gave Clemson a 4-1 edge. Catcher Garrett Boulware followed with a double for a 5-1 lead.
Montgomery didn't help himself in the fifth inning with two runners on and no outs. His ill-advised throw to third on Jay Baum's bunt flew wide of third baseman Joey Pankake, allowing Steven Duggar to score.
Then came the Gamecocks onslaught, and errors that added up to four.
"Greiner got a big hit for them and then just kept pecking away at our middle relief," Leggett said after using six pitchers. "It got to a point where it was tough to catch up."
Cody Mincey (1-0) got the win, and Joel Seddon earned his second save.
Clay Bates (0-1) took the loss.
The Gamecocks entered the series with a school-record shutout streak of five straight games (three against Eastern Kentucky, one against Presbyterian, one against Bucknell). But Weston Wilson, Clemson's No. 9 hitter, ended the scoreless stretch at 52 innings with an RBI single in the second inning to tie the game, 1-1.
Connor Bright, the South Carolina junior right fielder and a Wando High School graduate, singled in the first inning. He has hit safely in all eight games this season.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff
Notice about comments: