CLEMSON — A season full of what-ifs and now-whats has given the Clemson baseball faithful more to fret than cheer.
As the window closes on a spring to forget at Doug Kingsmore Stadium — and perhaps on a Hall of Fame coach’s tenure — Clemson’s 6-3 defeat of No. 19 College of Charleston on Wednesday night in front of a relatively partisan crowd of 3,712 fans gave Jack Leggett his 240th career triumph over a ranked opponent.
“That’s nice. You only feel as good as your last one,” Leggett said, with a smile. “They’re a good ballclub, they’ve been exceptionally well all year. We expected a tough ballgame, and you’re on edge the whole time because nothing’s been easy for us.”
The Tigers tallied a dozen hits, outfielder Steven Duggar drove in a pair of runs, starter Clate Schmidt pitched effectively and Clemson (25-24) avoided reaching 25 losses before 25 victories for the first time in school history — a day removed from losing 17-9 at Wofford.
“We played a complete game today, from top to bottom,” Duggar said. “If we find that consistency night in and night out, we’re pretty dangerous.”
Charleston designated hitter Bradley Jones deposited a two-run bomb deep into the left-field seats, becoming the fourth Cougar with eight home runs. But that was about all the Cougars (35-10) could muster offensively, absorbing a blow to their NCAA regional hosting hopes against Clemson’s No. 73 RPI rating.
“I don’t know how much it hurts. We’ll have to look at the RPI tomorrow and see how it affects us,” Charleston coach Monte Lee said. “But we’ve just got to do a better job of executing. When we had opportunities to score, we didn’t, and when you give up a big inning, your chances of winning go down significantly.”
Jones’ homer tied the game at 2 in the top of the fifth, but Clemson responded with three runs in the bottom half of the frame, led by Duggar’s RBI double.
Charleston loaded the bases in the ninth, sending the tying run to the plate, but Taylor Vetzel earned his second save allowing just one inherited run.
Schmidt (2-3) struck out four men in five innings, and now has a 2.13 ERA in his last four starts — all in midweek games, during which Clemson has struggled. Eric Bauer (3-3) took the loss for Charleston.
This was a reversal of the trends, concerning both teams’ track records against in-state foes. Charleston dropped to 11-3 vs. opponents within the state of South Carolina (snapping its 10-game winning streak) while Clemson improved to 5-6, prevailing for the second time in more than two months.
Clemson also improved to 13-12 at home, ranking among its weakest outputs since moving to Doug Kingsmore Stadium in 1970.
“I hope it carries us into two games, and that one carries into three games, and that one carries into four,” Leggett said. “We’ve had trouble getting the momentum to where we want to go.”
Should Clemson decide to move on from the embattled Leggett after this season, a logical choice to become the Tigers’ third skipper in 59 years might have been on the top step of the third-base dugout Wednesday evening. Cougars coach Monte Lee has led his alma mater to a top-20 ranking, and entering Wednesday an impressive 15-3 road mark in his seventh season.