CLEMSON - Five months of frustration were unleashed from the grandstand into the nighttime air, all because a not-so-anonymous visiting left fielder finally was less than flawless on Clemson's campus.
Nearly half a year after Jameis Winston and Florida State torched Clemson on the biggest stage in college football, starter Daniel Gossett and the No. 13 Tigers' baseball team exacted some small dose of revenge on the Seminoles, trouncing the nation's second-ranked squad 9-3 to open a critical three-game series Friday night at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
"Goose was good, he was in charge; I thought we swung the bats well, and we played good defense," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "The combination of those three things allow you to play well against a good team."
Winston didn't even start; he entered the game in the fourth inning to replace Ben DeLuzio, who was injured after crashing into the wall going after Clemson catcher Garrett Boulware's second home run of the season.
Haunted by the Heisman winner's heroics for a day short of 22 weeks, 4,948 fans in attendance reserved their loudest cheers for any Winston-related plays benefitting the Tigers.
Those would be Winston's inning-ending tapout in the sixth stranding two base runners, plus a freaky coincidence: Clemson shortstop Tyler Krieger's multiple RBI doubles to left which a diving Winston couldn't haul in - one in the fifth and one in the eighth.
Actually, there were three even bigger ovations bringing the audience to its feet, beginning with the conclusion of Clemson's three-run fifth (with a string of five consecutive base hits.)
"Once you get used to the velocity, hopefully you've seen his offspeed deliveries and you're paying attention to all your teammates hitting before," said first baseman Shane Kennedy, "the second time around, you've gotta get it going."
Then there was the sendoff for Gossett from the mound (7 1/3 innings for his second victory) and the game's ending, shoving Clemson (14-7, 6-1 ACC) ahead of FSU (17-4, 5-2) into first place in the ACC Atlantic Division standings.
Winston did get FSU on the scoreboard with a single up the middle in the fifth, but that was all the Seminoles could muster against Gossett, who gave up one run on four hits and four walks while striking out eight in outdueling FSU ace pitcher Luke Weaver.
"It's just another game," Gossett said. "I try to stay in that mindset, and not put extra pressure on myself by doing things I wouldn't normally do."
Of course, Winston was far more successful in his last visit to town on Oct. 19, as the quarterback for the eventual BCS national champions: 22-for-34, 444 yards and four total touchdowns in FSU's 51-14 romp at Death Valley over the eventual Orange Bowl champions.
While Winston was the Tigers' top target in October, it was Weaver who served as Clemson's prime opposition Friday. This time, the Tigers took care of business.
A preseason first-team All-American, Weaver was tagged for a career-high 11 hits and six runs (all earned), tying the second-highest total in his three years at FSU.
Krieger drove in three runs, and was one of five different Tigers banged out two hits: Krieger, Kennedy, catcher Garrett Boulware, right fielder Steven Duggar and designated hitter Chris Okey.
Kennedy, the Tigers' 2013 batting champ, is in his first week of action this season, returning from a torn ACL last fall. He admitted he's not quite back to 100 percent, though he could get there by the postseason in June.
"There's still elements I'm working towards," Kennedy said. "I'm cleared to play, obviously, but I'm still working out kinks, I'm still getting stronger and faster and trying to get my game back."
This was Clemson's biggest win of the year, as the Tigers continue to shine brighter in ACC play than against non-conference opponents. Clemson has losses to Eastern Michigan, Western Carolina and Georgia Southern, plus getting swept by South Carolina.
"We're got over our little error 'hiccup' at the beginning of the year; now we're playing fantastic defense," Gossett said. Clemson has seven errors in its last nine games, after committing 17 miscues in its previous five outings.
"We're hitting the ball fantastic, too. When you've got confidence in hitting, fielding, your starters and your bullpen, what else can you ask for?"
Florida State and Clemson will finish up with a doubleheader played Saturday, due to the threat of inclement weather Sunday.
Tickets for Sunday's previously scheduled 2 p.m. start will be honored at 2 p.m. Saturday, following by the regular game two starting at 6:30 p.m. Doug Kingsmore Stadium will be cleared between games.
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