CLEMSON — Clemson was unable to sweep No. 12 Miami, losing to the Hurricanes, 4-2, Sunday. But the Tigers might have accomplished something larger this weekend, they might have ?reestablished their identity and turned around their season.
As the Clemson pitchers ran in the Doug Kingsmore ?Stadium outfield for extra conditioning following the loss Sunday, Dominic Leone mentioned an impressive stat to fellow starting pitcher Kevin Pohle: the staff combined to ?allow six runs in three games to Miami (21-7, 8-4 ACC), which entered third in the ACC in batting average.
In a much-needed series victory, Clemson (14-13, 5-7) looked more liked the team prognosticators expected than the one that limped through March, Clemson looked like a team capable of being competitive due to strong pitching.
Pohle left with the lead Sunday after throwing six strong innings, allowing six hits, one run and one walk while striking out three. While the bullpen faltered and cost Pohle a win, the sophomore right-hander offered encouragement. He worked out of a sixth-inning jam by striking out two batters, including Miami’s fearsome slugger Peter O’Brien on a sharp-breaking slider, a pitch Pohle has been developing
“It was big pitch in a big situation,” Pohle said. “What we tried to do all week was get my slider going … We worked on the finish, not giving up on it, just trusting my mechanics, getting out and getting extension.”
A third pitch to couple with his sinking fastball and changeup could make Pohle a well above average third starter.
Perhaps the most important development of the weekend for Clemson was the performance of Dominic Leone, who entered the weekend with a 6.08 ERA and command struggles. Leone allowed one run on six hits over seven innings Saturday, walking three and striking out six. Leone looked more like the steady pitcher of last season.
“The past couple weeks I was trying to figure some things out,” Leone said. “I just think this weekend I put them altogether. On Friday before the game I felt some things, I was trying to get out and feel my release point and something clicked for me.
“I got my confidence back.” It also helped that the right-handed dominant Clemson pitching staff faced a right-handed dominant Miami team.
If Clemson can get more consistency from No. 1 starter Kevin Brady– Brady walked five Friday and lasted just 3 1/3 innings – the Tigers could have a strength to build from.
“Brady has to pitch better for us if we want to go where we want to go,” coach Jack Leggett said. “Leone pitched well for us, Pohle pitched well for us….We had good relief pitching for the most part.”
Good relief pitching until the seventh when Mike Kent relieved Pohle and allowed back-to-back singles. He was pulled for Jonathan Meyer who allowed a decisive two-run single to Dale Carey. Miami led 4-2 after the inning.
Clemson needs to pitch because they continue to struggle to hit.
While the staff allowed just six runs over the weekend Clemson scored only eight runs, entering the day 11th in the ACC in batting average (.267) and 11th in runs (139).
Clemson squandered a run-scoring chance in the seven as Richie Shaffer was picked off third with nobody out and Spencer Kieboom followed by missing a hit-and-run sign allowing Phil Pohl to be thrown out.
Said Leggett: “We just didn’t do enough good things offensively.”
But good pitching can hide flaws and a weekend of mostly good pitching has Clemson feeling confident again.
“It’s something we can carry into this next week,” Pohle said. “It is a confidence booster.”
Note: Reliever Matt Campbell has a muscle strain and Leggett said he will miss some time.