Parker walks it off

Shortstop James Parker (center, background) smiles as his team dogpiles him at second base following his walk-off single in the tenth inning to propel the Tigers to an opening weekend sweep for the second year in a row.

The Clemson baseball team brought out the brooms for their Sunday afternoon matchup with the Cincinnati Bearcats, winning the game 8-7 in ten innings and sweeping the series.

Redshirt freshman pitcher Nick Hoffmann picked up his first of the season and Tigers’ catcher Jonathan French picked up a pair of hits in the ten inning affair, including his second home run of the season.

Freshman two-way player Caden Grice received the nod on the mound for Sunday’s game, the second true freshman starter of the series for the Tigers. After getting a quick out to start the game, Grice gave up a one-single to Bearcats’ shortstop Joey Bellini. Things were quickly looking down for the young pitcher, but catcher Jonathan French caught Bellini stealing on a 3-1 strike. Grice struck out the next batter on the very next pitch to keep the score knotted at zero-all heading into the bottom of the first.

The Tiger bats came ready in the bottom of the first. Third baseman Blake Wright hit a ball into left field to record the Tigers first hit of the game. The next batter, right fielder Dylan Brewer, took the full count pitch deep to straight-away center field to plate the Tigers’ first two runs of the ball game. Bearcats' starting pitcher Garrett Schoenle plunked Tigers’ first baseman with the very next pitch to again give the Tigers a base runner with no outs in the inning. And like the first time just two batters prior, Schoenle gave up another homerun, this time off the bat of shortstop James Parker, a ball that bounced off of the foul pole and back onto the field. The next three Tiger hitters went down quietly, and the Tigers took their four run lead into the second inning.

Grice found himself in a bit of trouble in the second inning, after a walk and a single that gave the Bearcats runners on first and third with no outs. A single off the bat of Bearcats’ center fielder Jake Murray brought home the team’s first run of the game. With runners still on the corners with no one out, Grice induced a double play, allowing a second run to score, but clearing the bases for Bearcats’ catcher Joe Powell, who Grice struck out swinging to end the inning. However, the damage was done, and the Tigers’ lead was cut in half, 4-2.

Schoenle found his rhythm in the second inning against the Tigers, striking out the side.

Grice again found himself in a bind after walking the first two batters of the third inning. However, unlike the second inning, assistant coach Andrew See came to the mound to relieve Grice of his duties after just two innings pitched. Wofford transfer Rasesh Pandya was tapped to relieve Grice. After allowing Grice’s runners to advance to second and third, Pandya struck out the next batter to keep the runners from scoring and induced a fly ball to end the inning with no runs scored for the Bearcats.

Schoenle kept his rhythm in the third inning, again sitting the Tigers down in order on strikes.

Pandya returned the favor by sitting the Bearcats down in order in the top of the fourth, although he did not pick up any strikeouts along the way.

French took the 2-1 pitch from Schoenle down the left field line and into the grandstands for his second home run of the series. French watched the ball leave the yard, as did all of the fans in attendance, on the no-doubt home run. And the Tigers were not done scoring in the fourth inning. Designated hitter Davis Sharpe reached base when he was hit by a pitch, a call that required a replay review, but was ultimately called in the Tigers favor. After advancing to third on a failed pickoff move and a sacrifice bunt, Tigers’ second baseman picked up the RBI by singling up the middle to bring Sharpe home. Teodosio also singled to give the Tigers runners on first and second with one out again. However, a fly out to center by Wright was turned into a double play when Teodosio was thrown out at second base to end the inning.

Pandya found himself in trouble similar to Grice before him by allowing two runners on first and second with one out following a walk and an error by Wright at third base. A single into right field off the bat of Bellini scored the first run of the game and advanced Santiago to third base. Bellini reached second on the throw into home plate following his single. Assistant coach Andrew See again came to the mound, this time to relieve Pandya of his duties, giving the ball to left handed Wren High School alum Ryan Ammons. Ammons forced Nicholson to fly out to center field, leaving both runners stranded in scoring position with two outs. Ammons again induced a fly ball, this time just behind the first base bag, but first baseman Bryar Hawkins struggled to see the ball, and allowed it drop just inside the foul line, plating both runs and cutting the Tigers’ lead to one run, 6-5. Ammons gave up another single to the Bearcats, but stemmed the bleeding by inducing a fly out to center field to end the inning.

Right handed pitcher Mack Anglin came in relief of Ammons for the sixth inning. Anglin allowed a single pinch hitter Wyatt Stapp, but struck out the next three batters to strand Stapp at first and double the Tigers’ strikeout total on the day, bringing it to six.

The Tigers went down in order in the bottom of the sixth after facing new pitcher Beau Keathley.

Both sides went down in order in the six-batter seventh inning. Anglin picked up his fourth strikeout of the game, giving him more than all other Tiger pitchers combined to that point.

Anglin returned to the mound to start the eighth inning and quickly gave up a single and rebounded with strikeout. Stapp picked up his second single of the contest to advance the runner to third with one out. A walk loaded the bases, but set in play an inning ending double at any base. Anglin induced the ground ball he needed, but a fumble on the transfer by Parker meant the Tigers only recorded one out on the play, cutting their lead to one. After a discussion, the umpiring crew reviewed the bang-bang play at first base, but there was insufficient evidence to overturn the call. Santiago tied the game up with his RBI single into center field, and Anglin’s day was over. Redshirt freshman Nick Hoffmann relieved Anglin, and recorded a fly out on the next batter to keep the game tied at 7-7 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning.

The Tigers five, six and seven-hole hitters went down in order by striking out and grounding out twice to the third baseman. Heading into the ninth inning, the score was tied 7-7.

Both the Bearcats and the Tigers went down in order again in the ninth inning with the score still tied at seven runs each. Both teams entered their first extra inning game of the season.

The Bearcats again went down in order in the top of the tenth inning.

The Tigers did not go as quietly in their half of the tenth. Brewer and Hawkins singled to start the inning and end Nathan Moore’s day on the mound after two innings of work. Bearcats’ right handed pitcher Zach Segal replaced Moore on the mound with no outs and runners on first and second and immediately advanced the runners up a base when he threw a wild pitch on his very first pitch. Parker walked the game off with a line drive single into left field to score Brewer, giving the Tigers the 8-7 victory over Cincinnati.

The Tigers are off to their second 3-0 start in a row, with last year’s being cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent cancellation of the season on March 12, 2020. The Tigers return to action Friday, March 26, against the South Carolina Gamecocks for the first matchup in the 2021 edition of the Reedy River Rivalry.

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