COLUMBIA – Phil Pohl continues to hit at Carolina Stadium and Clemson coach Jack Leggett won the battle of strategic maneuvering in the Tigers’ 11-3 win over Coastal Carolina on Friday to advance to the winner’s bracket of the Columbia Regional.
Clemson will play the winner of the Manhattan-South Carolina game at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Leggett’s decision to start No. 3 starter Kevin Pohle achieved its objective Friday and might have placed Clemson in a better position to contend for the regional title. Pohle threw five innings to save Clemson’s top arms for later in the regional, and its likely showdown with host and rival South Carolina.
In the other dugout, Coastal’s strategy to pitch around Richie Shaffer backfired on Coastal in the second inning.
Shaffer, the top Clemson offensive threat and the only projected player from the regional field expected to be drafted in the first round of the Major League baseball draft, entered Friday’s game having walked in five of his last 10 plate appearances against the Chanticleers and Gamecocks.
Shaffer’s walk loaded the bases in the second and Phil Pohl followed with a line-drive grand slam that just cleared the left-field wall near the foul pole to give Clemson a 6-0 lead.
Leggett noted the rest of the Clemson lineup needed to step up around their star, Shaffer, as Clemson entered the NCAA Tournament having scored two or fewer runs in six of their seven games.
It was the second career grand slam for Pohl. His first came in 2010 against South Carolina, also at Carolina Stadium. In four games at the USC ballpark, he’s gone 6-for-13 with 12 RBI and two home runs.
The run support made Leggett’s decision to start Pohle in the opener against Coastal look like a shrewd decision.
Pohle was not great. He walked four and allowed two runs and labored through five innings, throwing 88 pitches, but he did enough to improve to 7-3 of the season. His day was concluded when a thunderstorm rolled through in the middle of the fifth inning, creating a nearly two-hour weather delay.
The decision to pitch Pohle means Leggett saved his top arms – Dominic Leone, Kevin Brady and Daniel Gossett – for later in regional play.
While Leggett pulled the right levers, Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore struggled to push the right buttons.
He relieved starter Austin Wallace with Aaron Burke who entered with a 1.18 ERA but even Burke struggled Friday. Burke hit back-to-back batters in Brittle and Shaffer to open the sixth and Jay Baum and Spencer Kieboom plated both with RBI singles to extend the Clemson lead to 10-3.
David Haselden relieved Pohle and got out of back-to-back, bases loaded jams in the sixth and seventh inning.