It’s been almost four decades since Clemson has beaten the Gamecocks in an NCAA Regional Tournament.
No, not those Gamecocks.
Tre Kirklin smacked a three-run home run and Dylan Hathcock combined with two relievers to limit Clemson two just two runs as the Jacksonville State Gamecocks defeated the Tigers 9-2 Sunday afternoon in an elimination game at the Oxford Regional at Swayze Field on the campus of University of Mississippi.
The Tigers (35-26) won the first game of a regional for the fourth straight year but failed to advance to a super regional for the ninth consecutive season. This was the first time under fourth-year coach Monte Lee that the Tigers failed to advance to the championship round of the regional. The last time Clemson defeated a “Gamecocks” team during the NCAA baseball tournament was in 1980, when the Tigers beat South Carolina twice, 6-2 and 17-12, on its way to the College World Series.
“Obviously, it’s a disappointing way to end the season, but you have to congratulate Jacksonville State for a job well done,” Lee said. “They played a great ball game today. Their starter, Dylan Hathcock, did a good job of making big pitches, and their defense made big plays when they needed to. We couldn’t seem to come up with the big hit with runners on base.”
The Gamecocks scored four two-out runs in the top of the second inning, capped by Kirklin's three-run homer.
“The second inning was a tough one,” Lee said. “We had two outs, and next thing you know, we get to (Kirklin) and he ran one out of the yard and they threw up a crooked number on us that inning.”
Clemson answered in its half of the second with their only runs of the game. Kyle Wilkie hit a solo home run, his sixth of the year, then Bryce Teodosio lined a two-out run-scoring single later to cut the gap to 4-2.
“I thought we did a good job of responding in the second inning to make it 4-2 and keep it close,” Lee said.
Jacksonville State loaded the bases with no outs and scored two runs in the fifth inning, then did the same in the seventh inning. Isaac Alexander added a run-scoring single in the top of the eighth inning.
“We just couldn’t keep them off the scoreboard,” Lee said. “They had some big two-out hits, and they hit with runners in scoring position and we didn’t. We had a lot of opportunities on the offensive side and just couldn’t come up with the big base hit with runners on base. Jacksonville State was just the better team today. We didn’t pitch the way we would have liked or hit the way we would have liked in the regional.”
Jacksonville State’s Corley Woods (7-0) earned the win for the Gamecocks, tossing two scoreless innings in relief. Tiger starter Brooks Crawford (1-5) suffered the loss, as he yielded six runs on seven hits in four innings pitched.
“Actually I thought Brooks pitched OK, he just had one tough inning,” Lee said.
Gamecocks pitchers combined to allow just one of 17 baserunners to score after Wilkie’s home run. Clemson's Michael Green extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a single in the bottom of the eighth inning.