CLEMSON — If Clemson is to make a second-half surge and play deep into June, its pitching staff will have to improve its command of the strike zone.
No. 22 N.C. State defeated Clemson, 6-3, on Sunday to take the weekend series in part because Clemson struggled to throw strikes. Clemson pitchers combined to issue nine walks Sunday, and the lack of control has been a consistent issue this season as the Tigers’ weekend starters are allowing 3.9 walks per innings, issuing 60 free passes in 1382/3 innings.
Clemson starter Kevin Pohle struggled with his command Sunday issuing four walks in 41/3 innings on Sunday.
Pohle allowed six runs — five earned — and six hits to snap his recent string of successful pitching. Pohle walked the lead-off batter in the fifth inning and, after a couple of N.C. State singles, Wolfpack slugger Adam Matthews hit a decisive three-run double to give N.C. State a 5-2 lead, knocking Pohle from the game.
N.C. State improved to 24-10 and 11-7 in the ACC while Clemson (20-17, 9-9) failed to win its third straight conference series.
“(Pohle) just didn’t look the same,” said Clemson coach Jack Leggett. “I don’t know where he was, but he wasn’t the same we saw last time.”
Pohle is hardly alone in having command issues.
Dominic Leone struggled mightily with command earlier this season, though he walked just one in his start Saturday and has shown signs of pitching like the player who emerged as a near ace last season.
Friday starter Kevin Brady has walked 19 batters in 451/3 innings this season after walking one in 23 innings last year. Brady’s struggles have prevented him from working deep into games. He failed to pitch at least six innings in three of his last four starts.
Clemson is also running out of margin for error in the Atlantic Division race. Clemson is two games behind second-place N.C. State, and is seven games behind front-running Florida State (29-7, 16-2).
Clemson returns to play at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday when it hosts Charleston Southern.