|Monte Lee, just Clemson's third head baseball coach|
in the last 59 seasons, led the Tigers to two wins
in the season-opening series with Maine. (Photo
courtesy of Clemson University)
The first action for NCAA Division I teams contributed to the busiest weekend so far in South Carolina college baseball. There were several notable tidbits to consider. After some overall observations, I'll mention a few teams.
* Overall, it was a good opening weekend for the state's 11 DI schools. Four were unbeaten, all 11 won at least one game and they had a combined record.
* Charleston Southern lost two of three to former Clemson player Randy Mazey's West Virginia team, but that 4-3 victory on Friday had a memorable angle.
Buccaneers sophomore outfielder Chris Singleton had two hits and drove in three runs. It was his first college game since his mother was one of the nine people killed in the Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston last June.
"I definitely do (feel like she would have been proud)," an emotional Singleton said in quotes provided by the school. "I can imagine, if she had been here, she would have been screaming the whole game because I played well and we won."
"Just as a baseball fan, how can you not enjoy that?" asked CSU coach Stuart Lake. "s a coach, as a dad, I'm proud of him. What a special moment and the toughness he has showed through everything…not just him, this team."
*It's going to take a whole lot of awfully, awfully strong outings for Claflin's pitching staff to recover from the abuse it took in being swept in a three-game series at Rollins.
The Panthers lost 17-5, 18-6 and 21-8.
Rollins hit .527 as a team and saddled Claflin's pitching staff with a 19.12 earned-run average for the series in Winter Park, Fla.
The box scores stated the weather for Saturday's doubleheader "couldn't be nicer" for Game 1 and was "gorgeous" for Game 2. It was "beautiful baseball weather" for Sunday, so maybe Claflin's players got to enjoy that aspect of the trip.
* Jack Leggett fell out of favor as coach with some Clemson fans over the past few seasons and it led to his dismissal after last season. Whatever else may be said about Leggett, no Clemson fan should question Leggett's love for the baseball program. Someone posted a Twitter picture of Leggett congratulating his replacement, Monte Lee, after Lee's first win on Saturday.
How many of us would have sulked in a similar situation? Leggett chose to support his former players -- and the man who succeeded him.
Lee's debut as Clemson coach was a 4-3 loss to Maine. Pitchers Charlie Barnes and Alex Eubanks struck out seven batters apiece, but the Tigers were unable to mount much on offense.
The certainly changed in the final two games.
Clemson built a 9-1 lead after three innings and cruised to a 9-4 victory on Saturday. The big early margin supported Tigers' starter Clate Schmidt, who was making his first appearance after undergoing treatment for cancer during the offseason.
Schmidt went allowed eight hits and four runs in five innings, but walked only one and struck out five. Pat Krall added six strikeout in 3 2/3 innings..
Offensively, January enrollee Seth Beer singled, walked and drove in two runs. The freshman who passed up a projected high Major League Draft slot for college, was even better on Sunday, singling, walking and hitting his first career home run -- a grand slam to cap a seven-run fourth inning as the Tigers rolled, 19-2.
Chase Pinder also homered and drove in four runs. The Tigers had 22 hits spread among 14 players.
Also, pitcher Jake Higganbotham had a solid Clemson debut, allowing two runs over five innings.
* It was a good weekend for Coastal Carolina, even if the Chanticleers went 2-1 in the Caravelle Resorts Tournament. They routed Appalachian State, 17-2, in the opener and lost a 13-10 slugfest to nationally ranked N.C. State
The highlight came on Sunday -- both on and off the field.
Coastal scored an eighth-inning run to beat defending national champion Virginia, 5-4. They did so in front of a school-record on-campus crowd of 3,136 at Springs Brooks Stadium.
* Pitching was one of the talking points coming out of College of Charleston's 2-1 weekend series win over Nebraska.
Friday starter Nathan Helvey and Sunday starter Hayden McCutcheon pitched six shutout innings apiece. But the big news may be the return of Bailey Ober, who was expected to be the College's ace last season but instead missed the year with an injury. Ober's Saturday start was his first appearance in more than a year. The numbers were pedestrian -- seven hits, four walks and three earned runs over 4 1/3 innings -- but the prospects of recapturing some of his pre-injury success will be something to encourage Cougars fans.
The Saturday win was Heath's first since replacing Monte Lee as head coach.
* Belton-Honea Path High product Jake Crawford didn't go far to continue his baseball career, choosing Furman. After Crawford's first start on Sunday, the Paladins likely overjoyed with his decision.
Crawford went 4-for-6 and drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning as Furman beat Presbyterian, 9-8, at Fluor Field in Greenville.
The freshman shortstop also walked, homered, scored two runs and drove in three to help Furman avoid an 0-3 start to the season.
A positive for the Paladins is they had 19 hits on Sunday alone. The negatives? They trailed 3-0 after a half-inning on Sunday and gave up a two-run lead in the ninth before rallying to force extra innings. Furman also surrendered a lead late in the season-opening loss to Fordham and couldn't match Michigan State's firepower in the middle game of the weekend.
* Lander hit six home runs while being swept in its three-game series at USC Aiken, giving the Bearcats 21 in 12 games this season.
* Calling South Carolina's offense moribund last season would have been charitable, although the Gamecocks also struggled on the mound and on defense en route to missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.
Coach Chad Holbrook went to great lengths to address the offensive woes, bringing in several junior college players. After a week it looks like the plan is working.
USC's new players hit a combined .387 (24-for-62) with 15 runs and 18 RBIs in the three-game sweep of Albany. That includes an 0-for-1 outing by 2015 redshirt Jared Williams and an 0-for-3 weekend by quarterback signee Brandon McIlwain. If McIlwain can give a boost to football offense, any contributions in baseball would merely be icing on the cake.
John Jones (6-10, 2B, HR, 9 RBI) and Dom Thompson-Williams (4-10, HR, 4 RB) were tops among the newcomers.
By comparison, USC's returning players hit .206 (7-for-34)with nine runs scored and six RBIs.
The Gamecocks' pitching was superb, particularly Friday starter Clarke Schmidt and Sunday starter Taylor Widener. It will be interesting to see how both the hitting and pitching holds up against better competition.
* Southern Wesleyan hosted a Kids Day on Saturday and gave their young visitors something to cheer about with walk-off victories in both ends of a doubleheader with Virginia Wise. The Game 2 win included a five-run rally in the Warriors' final at-bat.
* The Citadel's 2-1 series win over Virginia Tech included the 800th career victory for Bulldogs coach Fred Jordan on Saturday.
In Friday's win, Bulldogs starter J.P. Sears struck out 12 batters while allowing two hits and a walk over five shutout innings.
* USC Upstate is off to its first 3-0 start since 2005 and its first-ever 3-0 start as an NCAA Division I program.
Charlie Carpenter was a major cog in the offense, going 7-for-11 with three doubles. Jordan Ford broke an eighth-inning tie with a two-run triple on Saturday and staked Upstate to an 8-6 lead with his three-run homer in the seventh inning on Sunday.
* It would be understandable if Voorhees coach Justin Thomas is still shaking his head by midweek. The second-year coach took the Tigers to Atlanta for a pair of doubleheaders. They were blown out twice by Fairmont State on Saturday, perhaps easy games to forget. But the Sunday losses to host Clark Atlanta likely stayed with Thomas and his players much of the ride back to Denmark.
Voorhees took a 2-1 lead in the final scheduled inning (seventh) of the first game only to give up an unearned run to force extra innings. Then, the Tigers allowed another run on an error in the bottom of the eighth to lose, 3-2.
But wait; there's more.
The Tigers fell behind 3-0 in the nightcap, but scored a run in the sixth and two in the seventh to force extra innings again. Would you care to guess what happened in the bottom of the 10th? Another error allowed the winning run to score.
* Winthrop's four-game sweep of La Salle included a near-no-hitter in Sunday's finale. Zach Sightler pitched eight hitless innings before allowing a single to open the ninth inning. That's when Eagles coach Tom Riginos took Sightler out of the game.
* Wofford got three superb starts in beating Kentucky, Stony Brook and George Mason. Matthew Milburn allowed one earned run and struck out 10 in six innings against the Wildcats on Friday, Adam Scott allowed a run and struck out eight in five innings vs. Stony Brook on Saturday and Jacob Condra-Bogan matched those numbers against George Mason on Sunday.
Will Stillman, projected to be one of the top closers in the country, did his job twice over the weekend by shutting down opponents after the lead had been cut to one run.