Tigers get big outing from Haselden and Boyd in victory over Gamecocks

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Clemson right-hander David Haselden said he had no idea when he entered Friday’s night game against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the sixth inning that he would not only pick up the win, but finish the game as well.

Haselden relieved Tiger starter Casey Harman in the top of the sixth after Harman had started the inning by giving up a double and a walk in a 2-2 game. Haselden came on, allowed one of the inherited runners to score, but shut down the Gamecocks the rest of the way, pitching four scoreless innings as the 9th-ranked Tigers (8-0) knocked off the 15th-ranked Gamecocks (5-3) 4-3 at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in the first of three games against the rivals.

“I didn’t realize anything at that point,” Haselden said of when he entered the game. “All I knew was that there was a right-handed hitter up and he was probably going to try and bunt. I just wanted to get out of it as best I could. I just tried to execute the pitches that Coach Pep [pitching coach Dan Pepicelli] was calling. He called a great game.”

The Tigers eventually the tied the score at three, and then won the game in the bottom of the eighth when Wilson Boyd singled past the shortstop to score Chris Epps. Epps had walked to start the inning, advanced to second on a sacrifice, and then went to third on a passed ball. Jeff Schaus struck out for the second out of the inning, but Carolina coach Ray Tanner elected to walk Kyle Parker, setting the stage for Boyd, who came into the game hitting .238.

Boyd attempted a bunt down the third base line that went foul, but slapped a 2-1 pitch from lefty Michael Roth through the hole to score Epps and put the Tigers ahead for good.

“I had watched some of our lefties before that at-bat, and he was going slider away, slider away,” Boyd said. “A guy like that, you have to bury your shoulder and concentrate on the six hole, opposite field, up the middle and that’s what I was doing out there.”

Boyd said he didn’t mind it a bit when the Gamecocks walked Parker to pitch to him.

“Actually, I kind of liked it,” Boyd said. “That is part of it. They want to get the force at second, and it could have worked for them. But as a player, that kind of gets me going. I was excited for that at-bat. I am still not there with the bat, but I am just a hair away.”

Haselden came back on for the ninth and gave up a one out walk for his first base runner of the night, but retired the next two batters to seal the win. Haselden said he actually felt good pitching his fourth inning after only pitching 3 1/3 innings headed into Friday.

“I felt like I was getting stronger the longer we went,” Haselden said. “I felt like I had a lot of rest heading into tonight. I was spotting my fast ball pretty well, and mixing in the slider. I knew I just had to focus in on making my pitch and not let the other stuff get in the way.”

The Gamecocks got two runners on base in the top of the first and failed to score, but the Tigers did jump on the board in the bottom of the inning. Leadoff hitter Epps smacked a 1-0 pitch from Carolina starter Blake Cooper down the left field line and into the stands for his first home run of the season and a 1-0 Clemson lead. Two batters later, Jeff Schaus drilled Cooper’s first pitch into the right field stands for his second home run of the season and a 2-0 Tiger lead at the end of one.

The Gamecocks tied the score in the bottom of the third, picking up two runs in an inning that started when Whit Merrifield singled to third with one out. Jackie Bradley singled to left, and with two outs, Kyle Enders doubled down the right field line, scoring Merrifield and Bradley.

The Gamecocks took their first lead of the night in the sixth, pushing across the go-ahead run after Enders doubled to right-center to start the inning. A walk chased Clemson starter Casey Harman, and after a sacrifice moved the runners to second and third, Adrian Morales hit a sinking liner to right that Parker caught for the second out, but Enders was able to score the run and Carolina led 3-2.

The Tigers, who had been held in check by Cooper since the first inning, finally dented the scoreboard against Cooper again in the seventh. With one out, Brad Miller walked, took second on a grounder by John Nester, and he scored when Jason Stolz smacked a 2-2 pitch in the hole between short and third, scoring Miller to tie the score at three.

Clemson head coach Jack Leggett said he happy to get the win at home.

“I am just happy with the one tonight,” Leggett said. “I feel good about that. I thought we played a good game, a tough game. Kyle Enders had a good ballgame for them; he was tough to get out. Now we just have to refocus and go to Greenville and have a good game tomorrow.”

Game two of the series is Saturday at 2 p.m. at Greenville’s Fluor Field. A limited number of tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. at the stadium box office. The Gamecocks will send RH Sam Dyson to the mound against Clemson LH Will Lamb. The series concludes on Sunday in Columbia, with Carolina freshman lefty Tyler Webb facing off against Clemson righty Scott Weismann.

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