After a disappointing week that saw the Clemson baseball team drop their first-ever game to USC Upstate 12-2 and get swept in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, by the North Carolina Tar Heels, the Tigers have claimed four of their last five games and sit at an even 9-9 on the season.
The Tiger’s resurgence started with a five-run win over Georgia State on March 16. The game stopped a six-game losing streak for the Tigers. Then, Monte Lee’s squad came out for their second conference home series of the season, squaring off against the then-No. 25 Virginia Tech Hokies. When the Tar Heels and Hokies faced off earlier this season, North Carolina claimed two out of three games and won the series in Blacksburg, Virginia.
The Tigers, desperately looking for their first conference series win of the season, traded blowout wins in the first two games of the series with the Hokies but claimed the series in the eighth inning of game three when shortstop James Parker hit a three-run home run to give the Tigers a late lead.
“Jimmy [James] Parker [hits] in the three-hole for a reason ... because he’s the man,” Clemson Head Coach Monte Lee said of Parker following the series rubber match with Virginia Tech. “He’s the man we want up at the plate in high leverage situations.”
The Tigers squared off with the Georgia Southern Eagles Tuesday, March 23, in North Augusta, South Carolina, and needed all nine team at-bats to win the game. Tied 4-4 in the ninth, freshman Alex Urban launched a home run to right-center field, plating two runs and walking the game off for the Tigers. The win put the Tigers back at .500 for the year.
“This team’s faced a lot of adversity,” Lee said following Tuesday’s win over Georgia Southern. “For us to put ourselves in a position to win [the game] in the bottom of the ninth, I’m just really proud of my club.”
There is no doubt the Tigers’ resurgence is in part due to the return of redshirt sophomore Keyshawn Askew. The 6-foot-4-inch native of Powder Springs, Georgia, started nine games for the Tigers in 2019 and one game in the shortened 2020 season.
Askew was expected to miss six weeks with a minor leg injury, but appeared in the team’s fourth series against North Carolina and tossed 2 ⅔ innings against the Tar Heels. Now, the Clemson pitching staff has Askew on a 60-pitch limit.
With Askew available once again, the Tigers will have a solid — and, more importantly, consistent — weekend rotation. However, this consistency is dependent upon redshirt sophomore Davis Sharpe quickly returning to the lineup healthy. Sharpe was unavailable both on the mound and in the batter’s box last weekend against Virginia Tech.
“[Sharpe’s] easily one of my best friends. It’s definitely tough. It’s kind of nice to be on the weekend rotation with your best friend,” Askew said of his fellow 2018 enrollee.”I know he’ll be back. I’m just hoping for the best. Once we get him back, we’ll be really, really good.”
The Tigers face another crucial ACC matchup this weekend as they travel to Brighton, Massachusetts, to face off with the Boston College Eagles. The Eagles were selected to finish sixth in the Atlantic Division in the ACC Baseball Coaches Preseason Poll. The Eagles have won just one of their last six ACC games, being swept by the Louisville Cardinals, who were the preseason conference favorites, in Louisville, Kentucky, and taking just one game from North Carolina in Brighton. Boston College dropped from the D1Baseball’s Top 25 rankings following their series loss to the Tar Heels.
The Tigers and Eagles both enter the weekend 3-6 in conference play. Boston College enters with a better overall record, 12-7, having swept Charleston Southern and claiming two of three from the Auburn Tigers in Auburn, Alabama, in a surprise out-of-conference series that was announced just two days before the series opener.
The Tigers and Eagles begin their three-game set at the Eagles’ home ballpark on Friday, March 26, at 4 p.m.