Erwin dazzles as Clemson beats No. 3 Louisville

by - Senior Writer -
Tyler Krieger scores in the first inning
Tyler Krieger scores in the first inning

DURHAM, NC – Morning thundershowers moved the start of Clemson’s ACC Tournament game back a couple of hours Thursday afternoon, but it was starting pitcher Zack Erwin who rained on Louisville’s parade under partly cloudy skies in the evening.

Erwin pitched eight masterful innings and Clemson (32-26) battered Louisville starter Kyle Funkhouser for seven runs as the fifth-seeded Tigers knocked off top seed and third-ranked Louisville (43-15) 7-2 in game seven of the ACC Baseball Championship Thursday at Goodmon Field at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Funkhouser has five losses on the season, and two of those have come against Clemson in the last few weeks.

Reed RohlmanReed Rohlman
RS Fr. Outfielder
#26 6-0, 210
Moore, SC

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and Weston WilsonWeston Wilson
So. Infielder
#8 6-3, 195
High Point, NC

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drove in two runs each, while Steven DuggarSteven Duggar
Jr. Outfielder
#9 6-2, 195
Moore, SC

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, Tyler KriegerTyler Krieger
Jr. Infielder
#3 6-1, 170
Johns Creek, GA

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and Robert JollyRobert Jolly
Fr. Catcher
#12 5-9, 195
Myrtle Beach, SC

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collected two hits apiece.

The win kept Clemson’s slender ACC title hopes alive, but more importantly might have punched the Tigers’ ticket to the postseason. A win over North Carolina on Friday would certainly help the cause for a Clemson team that many experts thought needed to win two in the tourney to keep postseason hopes alive.

Erwin was stellar – he threw eight strong innings, giving up just six hits and one run while striking out 11 against no walks. He threw 119 pitches, 84 for strikes.

"I thought we played exceptionally well tonight. I’m proud of our team for the way we bounced back after last night. Zack was outstanding on the mound," Clemson head coach Jack Leggett said. "I thought he pitched with exceptional control and we played really good defense behind him. I thought our offense was right on the mark from the very beginning. We did some good things offensively in the first inning and in the second inning and then we continued throughout the game. I thought we put pressure on them and got big hits with men on base in crucial situations. It’s good to see us play like that. That’s how we can play and I thought we did some really good things from top to bottom and in all three phases of the game."

Like they did against Funkhouser in Clemson two weeks ago, the Tigers got off to an early start. Duggar singled through the right side with one out and he advanced to third after Tyler Krieger reached on an error by the second baseman. Rohlman singled to center to plate Duggar and Jolly smoked a single to center later in the inning that scored Rohlman for a 3-0 Clemson lead.

Louisville put together a two-out rally in the second, with Ryan Summers’ two-strike double to left plating the Cardinals first run and Clemson led 3-1.

Tyler SlatonTyler Slaton
Sr. Outfielder
#18 5-8, 200
Cumming, GA

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slashed a double down the right field line to start the bottom of the second and Andrew CoxAndrew Cox
RS So. Outfielder
#6 6-0, 215
Belton, SC

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walked a batter later. Eli WhiteEli White
So. Infielder
#4 6-2, 185
Easley, SC

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laid down a bunt to move both runners into scoring position and Duggar skied a sacrifice fly to center to score Slaton and make it 4-1. Krieger then followed with a single to left that scored Cox, and Clemson had a 5-1 lead through two innings.

The Tigers then piled on Funkhouser in the bottom of the fifth. Krieger singled to right to start the inning, stole second with one out, and Okey walked to put runners at first and second with one out. Jolly then sliced a liner to third that turned into an error that loaded the bases, and Weston Wilson laced a double into the left-center field gap to make it 7-1 Clemson.

Funkhouser pitched five innings and was touched for seven runs – five earned – while walking two and striking out three in 108 pitches. His only 1-2-3 inning was the fourth.

"I think we just took advantage of some of the mistakes he threw, honestly," Leggett said. "He’s an unbelievable pitcher and you’ve got to give him and the team a lot of credit. They’re a great ball club and he’s a great pitcher. Us taking advantage of his mistakes is what we did today. He left a couple of balls up and we were fortunate to put some good swings on it."

Erwin said he was determined to change his fortunes against the Cardinals.

"Last time I pitched against them, I gave up 11 hits and most of them were on first-pitch fastballs, so this time out I was just trying to throw more off-speed on the first pitch and get ahead in the count," Erwin said. "That really helped out today."

Pat KrallPat Krall
So. LH Pitcher
#36 6-5, 205
Downingtown, PA

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pitched the final inning for Clemson, giving up a run.

The Tigers return to action Friday at 3 p.m. against North Carolina.

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