The Clemson baseball team lost their first home game of the season Saturday afternoon, dropping game two against Notre Dame 3-1. The Irish used just two pitchers to silence the Tigers’ bats, holding the Tigers to just four hits on the day.
Returning to the mound for his third start of the season, freshman Ty Olenchuk got the start for the Tigers. The Irmo native won his first start of the season against Cincinnati and picked up a no decision against rival South Carolina.
Olenchuk opened the game with a strikeout before giving up his first hit of the game. The righty induced the ground ball he needed to get an inning ending double play, but Max Wagner, making his first start at second base, fumbled the ball and decided to get the out at first. Notre Dame had a runner on second with two outs. Fighting Irish first baseman made the Tigers pay for the botched double play by taking Olenchuk’s 1-1 offering deep to center field for a two run home run. Olenchuk ended the inning on the next batter with a ground ball to the shortstop.
The Tigers went down in order in the bottom of the first.
Olenchuk returned to form in the second inning. After inducing a ground ball out to the first batter of the inning, Olenchuk hit Notre Dame right fielder Ryan Cole with a pitch that ran just too far inside. He recovered by forcing a fly out to left field to the next hitter. Catcher Jonathan French ended the inning by throwing Cole out attempting to steal second base.
Tigers’ shortstop James Parker opened the Tigers’ hitting when he led off the second inning with a single. Regan Reid reached on an error by Notre Dame third baseman Jack Brannigan. Cooper Ingle sacrificed his first plate appearance of the season to move Parker and Reid up to second and third. Notre Dame starting pitcher John Bertand struck out the next two hitters, negating Ingle’s sacrifice and stranding two in scoring position.
A common Tiger problem flared up again in the third inning, after retiring the first two batters in the inning Olenchuk allowed a double to Fighting Irish designated hitter Carter Putz. After two walks, one of which was intintal, Olenchuk induced a ground ball to third base to end the inning. But of course, the Irmo native had increased his pitch count higher than it needed to be given the promising start the inning had.
The Tiger bats stayed quiet in the bottom of the third inning, when just a single base runner reached when Max Wagner walked with two outs.
Olenchuk again kept the Irish bats at bay in the fourth, retiring the side in order, the first and only time he would do so in the game.
James Parker led the fourth inning off with a ball into center field. The shortstop stretched the sure single into a double to put himself in scoring position. Two ground balls to Notre Dame’s shortstop brought Parker around to score, cutting the Irish’s lead in half, but leaving the Tigers with two outs. Jonathan French ended the inning with a ground out to second base.
The Irish responded with a run of their own in the top of the fifth. Mat Clark took over on the mound for Olenchuk, who left in line for the loss. A lead off single came around to score when Putz doubled down the left field line. With one out, Clark found his footing and retired the next two hitters, keeping the damage to his ERA and the scoreboard minimal.
Despite Dylan Brewer picking up a two-out single, the Tigers were unable to manufacture any other offense. Max Wagner struck out looking on a full count to end the inning and strand Brewer at first base.
Clark looked more like himself in the sixth inning despite giving up a one out double to pinch hitter Jack Zyska. A strikeout and a pop up ended the inning.
The Tigers did not fare any better in the bottom of the inning. Bertrand made his sixth inning of work look easy, sitting the Tigers down in order. In stark contrast to game one of the series, the Tigers and Irish were locked in a pitching duel heading into the final third of the game.
Clark retired the side in order in the seventh, just the second time a Tiger pitcher did so all game.
The Tiger seventh started with Cooper Ingle striking out looking; his first hit still evading him. Jonathan French recorded the second out of the inning when Notre Dame Zach Prajzner extended his vertical range to rob the Tiger catcher of a hit. Despite Caden Grice reaching first on a two-out walk, the Tigers came away empty handed.
The Tigers’ redshirt southpaw returned to the mound in the eighth inning, sitting the side down in order for the second time.
Bertrand’s day was done when he did not return to the mound to start the eighth inning. Fellow lefty Will Mercer took over and continued the pitching battle, retiring the first two Tiger batters he faced before giving up a single to Kier Meredith. Mercer retired the side on the next batter by forcing James Parker to fly out to center field.
Keeping with Tiger tradition, Clark retired the first two batters in the ninth inning before allowing a single that just dropped in front of Teodosio in center field. The lefty retired the next batter sending the game to the bottom of the ninth with the Irish up 3-1.
Regan Reid popped up in foul territory for the first out of the inning. Friday night ace and two way player Davis Sharpe came on to pinch hit for Ingle, and turned on the first pitch Mercer offered him. Spencer Myers had no trouble catching the hard hit line drive in center, putting the Tigers’ backs up against the wall with two outs for Jonathan French.
Despite French walking, the Tigers were unable to convert the base runner into a run when Caden Grice rolled over the 1-0 offering to second base, ending the game.
Olenchuk picked up his first loss of the season despite pitching well after the first inning. Bertrand recorded his first win of the season as the projected last place Irish evened the series with Tigers.
The teams return to Doug Kingsmore Stadium for the rubber match tomorrow, March 7, at 12 p.m.