By John Whittle
GREENVILLE, SC (TheBigSpur.com) — South Carolina gifted Clemson a 5-1 win at Fluor Field on Saturday to level the series at one game apiece. Starting pitcher Cody Morris and first reliever Gage Hinson combined to walk eight hitters with five coming around to score.
The walks were the difference in the game and the Gamecocks (7-4), apart from senior Madison Stokes, couldn’t get anything going offensively.
“The difference in the game were the walks. We need to be better there and we usually are,” first-year head coach Mark Kingston said. “Move on to tomorrow and try our best to win tomorrow.”
Clemson put the first two runners on base in each of the first five innings and ended up scoring five runs. Morris was able to work out of trouble in each of the first two innings, but gave up a sacrifice fly to Patrick Cromwell in the third to give the Tigers a one-run lead.
The Tigers came through with a pair of runs in the fourth and fifth innings as Seth Beer hit a sacrifice fly and Patrick Cromwell hit an RBI single. In the next inning, nine-hole hitter Kyle Wilkie slapped a two-RBI single to the opposite field.
“We did not keep the leadoff guy off base,” Kingston said. “When you play with fire enough against a good team, it’s going to catch you at some point. We have a formula for winning, and it’s throwing a lot of strikes and getting ahead of hitters. We just didn’t do that today.”
A solo home run in the fourth inning by Madison Stokes was the only real blemish to Clemson starting pitcher Brooks Crawford’s line. Crawford gave up one run on three hits over 4 1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out three in his 80-pitch outing. Reliever Ryan Miller threw four shutout innings giving up four hits, one walk, and three strikeouts to pick up the save. Mat Clark got the win after picking up the last two outs of the fifth inning.
Apart from Stokes’ 3-for-4 day, the only other bright spot for the Gamecocks was reliever TJ Shook, who was the third pitcher to take the mound on the afternoon.
Shook pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings and gave up only two hits. He walked one and struck out three on the afternoon. Freshman Parker Coyne registered the last two outs of the game.
Morris saw his record drop to 2-1 on the season with the loss. He gave up three runs in four-plus innings pitched allowing four hits and six walks while striking out four. The sophomore threw 81 pitches.
"I was speeding myself up a little bit," Morris said. "I was really excited for the game. In the end, I just wasn't around the zone enough."
The 10 walks by South Carolina pitchers was a season high. The team walked 11 against North Carolina in the 20-5 loss last season and walked 10 against Clemson in the Sunday game a year ago.
Sunday’s series finale is set for 2 p.m. on Sunday at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Kingston said he was not ready to announce a starting pitcher and likely won’t until Sunday morning. Freshmen John Gilreath and junior Ridge Chapman are the two primary candidates.
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