CLEMSON — Chris Singleton’s career day needed one more highlight. The Charleston Southern freshman was 4-for-5 with two RBIs and made a diving catch for the final out of the game as the Buccaneers beat Clemson, 4-3, in 10 innings on Wednesday.
Singleton drove in the tying run with two outs in the ninth and robbed Clemson’s Andrew Cox of a base hit in the 10th to preserve the win. The win is the first for CSU against Clemson in 17 games.
Bucs head coach Stuart Lake knows how much the win means in baseball-rich South Carolina.
“We’re grateful the two big schools in our state that give us a chance to play them and it’s big for all of our players who grew up in this state,” Lake said “You’re either a fan of Clemson or USC fan, so to come here and win, after winning at South Carolina last season, is big for our program.”
The win could also be big for the Bucs’ confidence and season. CSU had lost seven straight, including a tough ninth-inning loss on Tuesday at Savannah State. Lake is hoping it provides the same jolt as last season’s win at South Carolina, when CSU won 10 of 11 after winning in Columbia.
“Our players were talking about (last season’s winning streak) as soon as the game ended,” Lake said. “Losing is tough. We played well yesterday, but let it get away. Today, we really battled. We’ve got a big weekend ahead and hopefully this will give us some confidence to get clicking.”
Lake has to be confident in what he saw from what had been a struggling CSU offense. The Bucs outhit Clemson, 13-8, and had five hits in their final two at-bats.
No one came up bigger than Singleton. He had a career-high four hits, batting clean-up in the CSU lineup, scored one of the Bucs’ four runs and drove in two more. His two-out, RBI single in the ninth forced extra innings after Clemson had taken a 3-2 lead.
“We could not have asked Chris to do much more for us tonight,” Lake said of his freshman outfielder. “The four hits and the big one there at the end to extend it. He carried us offensively, then he comes up with the great diving catch to end the game. It was pretty fitting.”
The bullpen gave CSU a chance by limiting early damage and then closing strong.
Reliever Jon Piriz came on with no outs in the first and pitched four scoreless innings to get CSU out of an early 2-0 hole. Chayce Hubbard (3-0) would come on with two on and one out in the eighth to keep the Tigers from adding any insurance runs. Hubbard had three strikeouts and retired all eight batters he faced.
“The first person I congratulated after the game was Piriz,” Lake said. “He gave us a chance to stay in it …Hubbard was really good. I didn’t realize that no one reached against him, but you felt like he was in complete control.”
The Bucs trailed 2-0 after an inning and took a while to break through offensively. Chase Shelton singled home Singleton in the sixth to cut the lead to 2-1. Singleton followed with an RBI single in the seventh to tie the game, 2-2.
Brandon Burris and Kevin Hickey had singles in the 10th to load the bases, leading to a Nate Blanchard sacrifice fly for the go-ahead run. Blanchard was 2-for-4 with a run scored and the RBI in the 10th. Brandon Burris added two hits for CSU.
Reliever Cody Smith pitched two scoreless innings for the Bucs.
Clemson’s Chris Okey was 3-for-5 and Reed Rohlman added a pair of RBIs.
The Tigers’ Alex Bostic (0-2) allowed the decisive run in the 10th.
CSU returns to Big South action on Friday at CSU Ballpark. The Bucs open a three-game series with Gardner-Webb at 6 p.m.