Eric Swegman’s Tuesday evening did not begin well for him. The Georgia hurler faced four batters in the top of the first inning and got exactly none of them out, surrendering a leadoff single to Chris Epps, a base on balls to Mike Freeman, a two-RBI double to Jeff Schaus, and a walk to Kyle Parker before giving way to Steve Esmonde.
The Red and Black reliever put out the fire, eliciting a baserunner-advancing groundout from Wilson Boyd and a run-scoring sacrifice fly from Brad Miller before walking John Hinson and coaxing Will Lamb into hitting into the fielder’s choice that ended the visitors’ turn at the plate. Dominic Leone took the mound in the bottom of the frame with a 3-0 lead and retired the first two batters he faced. A Miller error enabled Levi Hyams to reach base, and another error by the pitcher on a failed pickoff attempt allowed the Georgia second baseman to advance to his accustomed position on the diamond, but Zach Cone flied out to strand him.
The Country Gentlemen picked up where they left off in the upper half of the second stanza, starting with John Nester’s leadoff double. Epps scored him with a single, and a base hit by Freeman put runners at the corners. Consecutive singles by Schaus and Parker plated two more and forced Esmonde from the mound.
Justin Earls came in from the bullpen and surrendered a base hit to Boyd, who was thrown out at second but was credited with an RBI when Schaus crossed home plate. A Miller strikeout was followed by a run-scoring Hinson single. A Robert Shipman error on a failed pickoff attempt allowed the Tiger third baseman to make it as far as his usual spot on the field, then Lamb brought him home with a single. By the time Nester struck out looking to bring down the curtain on an eight-hit, six-run canto, Clemson had leapt out to a 9-0 lead.
The Red and Black went three up and three down in the bottom of the inning. Epps’s leadoff single in the top of the third frame was erased when Freeman reached on a fielder’s choice and Schaus grounded into a double play. Kevin Ruiz registered the Bulldogs’ first hit with a single to start the bottom of the stanza, but the next two Georgia batters produced a pair of outs and advanced the hometown infielder only one base. A Peter Verdin double got the Classic City Canines on the board before a Hyams flyout squelched any hope for a rally.
The Tigers were retired in sequence in the top of the fourth frame, permitting the Diamond Dogs to resume their attack with a leadoff triple off the bat of Cone in the home half of the inning. A Shipman groundout scored a run. Kyle Farmer followed with a base hit, stole second, and took third on a wild pitch, but back-to-back strikeouts stranded him 90 feet from home plate. Clemson had only a two-out Nester single to show for the visitors’ half of the fifth canto, while Johnathan Taylor was the lone Georgia baserunner in the bottom of the stanza.
The hurling duties devolved upon Zach Laughlin at the outset of the sixth inning, and Schaus was the only Fort Hill Feline he allowed out of the batter’s box. Cone, who was hit by a pitch to start the lower half of the frame, swiped second and was moved over to third on the inning’s second flyout, but Chase Davidson went down swinging to leave the runner in scoring position.
An error by Farmer permitted Boyd to reach base to begin the seventh stanza, then, after plunking Miller, Laughlin was pulled in favor of Patrick Boling. Hinson sacrificed the runners over and Lamb walked to load the bases. A Nester sacrifice fly brought home an unearned run before Epps struck out to leave two runners in scoring position. As the bottom of the canto got underway, Leone was relieved after striking out seven, walking one, and allowing four hits and two earned runs in six stanzas’ worth of work.
The new Orange and Purple hurler, Scott Firth, gave up a one-out walk and a subsequent single before convincing Verdin to ground into a double play. A Freeman double and a Schaus walk got the upper half of the eighth frame off to a bad start for Boling, who was replaced by Cooper Moseley in time for the latest Red and Black reliever to surrender a run-scoring single to Parker and throw the wild pitch that allowed both remaining baserunners to advance.
After Boyd grounded out, Miller drew the walk that loaded the bases for Hinson, whereupon the Tiger infielder drove a grand slam to right field. The Country Gentlemen added insult to injury by putting in a pinch hitter named Spencer Kieboom after Lamb grounded out---I mean, seriously; you just tagged us for a grand slam to make it 15-2, and you put in a guy called ka-boom?!?!---but, fortunately, he popped up to end the latest chapter in the slaughter.
Hyams commenced the bottom of the canto with a base hit, only to have the three teammates who followed him into the batter’s box record a strikeout, a flyout, and a groundout, respectively. No South Carolinian made it as far as first base in the top of the ninth inning, but the Athenians had some belated success against Joseph Moorefield when the Clemson closer took over in the home half of the final frame.
Ruiz sent a one-out single into left field, after which Carson Schilling put two men in scoring position with a double. A base hit by Todd Hankins plated them both, and a Lance Martin single, a Jason Stolz error, and a Hyams walk loaded the bases. Cone brought a run home on a sacrifice fly before Shipman hit into the fielder’s choice that ended the game.
So . . . what have we learned from tonight’s contest? Well, let’s see; for one thing, I think we may conclude confidently that, when the other team’s starting pitcher goes six innings and gives up two runs while your starting pitcher gives up three runs yet records no outs, your team probably isn’t going to win the game. Also, it’s not good when the opposition gets its leadoff man aboard in the first, second, third, seventh, and eighth frames in the same game in which your team strands a man on second in the first, a man on second in the third, a man on third in the fourth, a man on second in the fifth, a man on third in the sixth, a man on second in the seventh, a man on first (with no one out) in the eighth, and a man on second in the ninth. Finally, when you are outscored 9-0 in the first two frames and outscored 6-3 in the last five stanzas, it likely is not your night.
On the plus side, at least it wasn’t another one-run loss.
(By the way, for the benefit of those of you who were devoted enough to read this far, an announcement of moderate significance will be coming your way here at Dawg Sports at noon tomorrow. You have been warned.)