Clemson 10, Wake Forest 4
CLEMSON -- Jonathan Meyer has faced greater challenges than being asked to step into Clemson's weekend rotation and aid a struggling pitching staff. After all, the San Diego native struck out Washington Nationals wunderkind Bryce Harper in their first meeting three years ago in a summer league contest.
Before going on to appear on a Sports Illustrated cover and also before he made the No. 1 overall pick last June, Harper went 0 for 2 as a high school sophomore against Meyer.
"It was known then that (Harper) was the chosen one," Meyer said.
Meyer was chosen to pitch Sunday, marking his second career start and second straight impressive showing in a 10-4 win over Wake Forest. The sophomore recovered from a first inning two-run home run to allow three runs over six innings while striking out seven and allowing just one walk and four hits.
While not overpowering, like in his strikeout of Harper, Meyer displayed command, movement and guile to defeat the Demon Deacons (16-25, 7-14 ACC) and deliver Clemson (25-14, 11-10) its third straight ACC series victory. Meyer displayed the same skills, the same moxie former Clemson recruiting coordinator Tom Riginos saw in an Atlanta showcase three years ago.
"I was nervous for my first home start and it showed in the first," Meyer said. "I settled in and started to get in a good rhythm in the third. I was pounding the strike zone, hitting both sides of the plate."
Clemson coach Jack Leggett said Meyer has secured a spot as a starting pitcher.
"Meyer pitched really well," Leggett said. "He just made one mistake in the first inning but he settled down and threw strikes."
The Tigers seem tired of fielding questions regarding the status of top arm Kevin Brady, who has not pitched since warming up prior to the fifth inning at Fluor Field on March 6 after holding South Carolina to one run over four innings.
Brady looked like an ace up to that point, learning to harness his mid-90s fastball. But the sophomore left the game with a forearm injury and has not pitched since. There is no timetable for his return.
Dominic Leone has returned from injury with better velocity, consistently into the low 90s. Leone was dominant Friday, striking out 10 over 8 2/3 scoreless innings. After trying multiple pitchers in the Sunday slot, Meyer has responded with back-to-back quality starts. Combined with his relief work earlier this season, Meyer possesses the staff's most impressive ratios: 43 strikeouts against 12 walks in 43 innings.
"He's been pitching well," Clemson pitching coach Dan Pepicelli said. "He throws his breaking ball for strikes works ahead in the count."
Scott Weismann has moved back to where his career began, the bullpen, and found success in five relief appearances. In relief, Weismann has allowed just two hits, no walks, no runs while striking out 11 in six relief innings.
Leggett said Weismann is his closer.
"I like him (in relief) a lot better," Leggett said.
It was not a perfect weekend as Saturday starter Scott Firth struggled in a loss, but the Tigers do not need perfection from its staff as its bats continue to produce. Brad Miller reached base three times Sunday, Jeff Schaus drove in three and Spencer Kieboom hit his first career home run.
"We keep on playing better all the time," Leggett said. "We keep trying to figure this whole thing out. We are still learning about this team."
Clemson is projected as a No. 2 seed at Nashville (No. 1 seed Vanderbilt) according to Rivals.com's latest projection. Baseball America's April 5 update had Clemson as a No. 3 seed at South Carolina.