Flames burn Tigers in NCAA opener

by - Senior Writer -

COLUMBIA – The Liberty Flames punched Clemson in the mouth Friday afternoon in the first game of the NCAA Regionals, and the punchless Tigers took it without a response.

Liberty got a career-high six RBI and a long 3-run homer from Greenwood native Trey Wimmer and the Tigers committed two errors but had other costly defensive lapses in a lackluster 8-3 loss to the Flames at Carolina Baseball Stadium.

The Tigers have now lost six in a row, Clemson’s longest losing streak since 2008.

Liberty starter Josh Richardson retired 17 Clemson batters in a row before Steven DuggarSteven Duggar
Fr. Outfielder
#9 6-1, 185
Moore, SC

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doubled to lead off the ninth. Duggar also had the last hit for the Tigers, a single with one out in the third inning.

Clemson will play the loser of the South Carolina-St. Louis contest – played at 7 p.m. – at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The loser of that game is eliminated.

Wimmer, who attended Greenwood High School, grew up a Clemson fan and his older brother Tyler is a senior at Clemson. Wimmer told the media after the game that playing and performing against the Tigers was special.

“They [Clemson] recruited me a little bit, but I got hurt my senior year of high school,” Wimmer said. “But I have a lot of respect for those guys, and I grew up watching Coach Leggett and those guys be one of the most dominant teams in baseball over the last ten years. To beat a team of that caliber is a lot of fun and it means a lot to this team.”

Since blowing a 7-2 lead in the ninth inning of the second game of the ACC tournament against North Carolina, Clemson’s offense has managed just three runs on 12 hits in 23 innings. The Tigers managed just two hits in the last five innings against the Tar Heels, had no runs on four hits against Miami in nine innings and the Tigers scored three runs on six hits Friday.

“We came up dry in the middle of our order,” Clemson head coach Jack LeggettJack Leggett
Baseball Head Coach
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said. “Are we having trouble offensively? There is no doubt about that. All year long we haven’t always been on top of our game offensively. We’ve got some holes there. When we get it going, we are pretty good. We just couldn’t get it going.”

Liberty used a leadoff double and a sacrifice fly to take a 1-0 lead in the first, but the Tigers answered in the bottom of the frame after Thomas BrittleThomas Brittle
RS Sr. Outfielder
#4 5-8, 180
Cross, SC

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reached on an error and moved to third on a single by Steve WilkersonSteve Wilkerson
Jr. 2nd Base
#17 6-1, 195
Roswell, GA

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. Freshman Steven Duggar then laced the first pitch he saw into right field to knot the score at 1-1.

The Flames took advantage of shaky Clemson defense in the third, using a leadoff single, an error on the ensuing bunt and a double in the gap by Wimmer to plate two more runs for a 3-1 lead. Brittle led off the bottom of the third with a single, and Duggar made the Flames pay again with an RBI single to center that made it 3-2 after three innings.

The Flames got a line drive homer to left in the fourth to make it 4-2, but Wimmer broke the game open with a long three-run homer to left in the sixth to make it 7-2 Flames. Liberty added another run in the 8th, and the Tigers finally broke through against Richardson in the ninth after Duggar’s double to account for the final score.

“We will get after it tomorrow and take it game by game,” Leggett said. “We have been in this situation before. It can happen, but we have to play a lot better than we did today. The bad pitches we made today, they hit them with men on base. That is the story of the game today. That 3-run homer in the sixth put in a dagger for us. I thought up until there we had a chance to come back.”

Leggett said he will start Friday starter Daniel GossettDaniel Gossett
So. RH Pitcher
#23 6-0, 180
Lyman, SC

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on Saturday.

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