Monday, April 18, 2016

Wrapping up the weekend, April 18

Ray Milland in a still photo from The Lost Weekend (Paramount Pictures).
Just call it The Lost weekend.

Clemson dropped a three-game series at Louisville and South Carolina's offense was mostly punchless in losing a series at Georgia as the state's two highest-profile programs continued their recent struggles.

The Tigers and Gamecocks had plenty of company for their misery. Presbyterian and The Citadel suffered road conference sweeps to state rivals Coastal Carolina and Wofford and College of Charleston was swept at early season CAA doormat Hofstra.

* Clemson has lost four of its last five, and that lone win over Western Carolina on Tuesday featured some bizarre moments such as the eventual tying run reaching base on a dropped popup by a pitcher and a 21-minute power outage delay.

Louisville jumped to big leads early in winning the first two games. Clemson turned the tables early in Sunday's game by scoring three runs -- two unearned -- in the first. The Cardinals, ranked as high as sixth nationally, took the lead in the third inning and held it until Clemson scored twice in the eighth. But the Cardinals won the game in walk-off fashion with a ground-rule double in the ninth.

Clemson committed nine errors and allowed 46 hits in the series. Tigers pitchers walked as many as they struck out (seven).

The positive for Clemson is a 13-game homestand begins Tuesday when Georgia visits Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

* South Carolina's offense was MIA in a midweek 15-0 loss to North Carolina and repeatedly failed to produce a key hit in big situations in the weekend series loss at Georgia.

The Gamecocks scored more than one run in an inning just once during a 1-3 week, and that one time was a three-run ninth during Saturday's 13-4 loss.

Not even the inviting 314-foot right-field wall at Foley Field in Athens could serve as a tonic. Gene Cone's home run came in the aforementioned ninth inning. Georgia, meanwhile, belted six solo home runs in the series.  The Bulldogs' last 20 homers have been solo shots.  Their last multi-run homer came March 3, before the start of SEC play.

Clarke Schmidt pitched brilliantly in Friday's 3-1 victory in the series opener, but four Georgia errors contributed to two unearned runs -- the margin of victory.

Some of the biggest contributors to USC's hot offensive start have struggled mightily over the past few weeks.  The Gamecocks haven't raised their team batting average over their last 13 games and have gone 13 games without getting 10 hits in a game.

The usually reliable bullpen has been shaky as well.

Things may not get any easier for USC hitters next weekend even though last-place Missouri is visiting. The Tigers sport two outstanding pitchers in Tanner Houck and Reggie McClain.

* Hats off to the Greenville Drive, Benedict and Claflin for Friday's HBCU Classic at Fluor Field. The game drew a crowd of 1,258, the largest crowd for a college game in the state that day. Benedict and Claflin had already played their SIAC series, but agreed to the extra game in Greenville as part of the Drive's Jackie Robinson Day observance. Both Benedict and Claflin were able to squeeze the game in before heading to Georgia for conference doubleheaders on Saturday.

* Anderson wasn't able to build any momentum from its midweek win at nationally ranked Lander. The Trojans needed a three-run ninth inning in Game 3 to avoid being swept by Newberry in South Atlantic Conference action. Newberry and Coker both won two of three over the weekend to help forge a five-way tie for third place entering the final week of league play.

* Coastal Carolina continued its hot play with a weekend sweep of Presbyterian. The Chanticleers have won seven straight games and 14 of their last 15. They've won their last four weekend series by sweeps and have a three-game lead in the Big South Conference.

* College of Charleston's weekend  visit to Hofstra can be summed up in either one word (according to head-scratching baseball quote machine Joaquin Andujar) or two words (according to famed boxing trainer Lou Duva): You Never Know.

The Cougars went to New York with a share of first place in the Colonial Athletic Association and a three-game series against the league's cellar dweller looming. Come Sunday, the Cougars needed a ninth-inning grand slam by Bradley Jones to get close enough to suffer its second one-run loss (8-7) of the weekend sweep.

A pair of unearned runs in the eighth inning negated a superb start by Bailey Ober and the Cougars went on to lose Friday's opener, 4-3, in 11 innings. Nathan Helvey also pitched well Saturday, but his teammates were limited to four hits in a 3-1 loss.

The Cougars are 1-6-1 (the tie was because of a travel curfew for Cal Santa Barbara) in their last eight games, but still a very respectable 21-14-1 overall. They're in a three-way tie for third place in the CAA, but only one game out first with 15 league games remaining. They'll try to reverse their fortunes with a Wednesday visit to Coastal Carolina. It's the fourth meeting of the season between the teams. The Cougars have a 2-1 edge, although Coastal won the most recent meeting last week.

* Erskine, North Greenville and Belmont Abbey entered the weekend tied for first place in the Conference Carolinas. The Flying Fleet won two of three head-to-head with Belmont Abbey while North Greenville was winning two of three at Barton. Erskine and North Greenville enter their three-game series at Due West in the final conference series tied for the lead at 20-4.

* I wasn't aware the Southern Conference had any kind of run rule until it came into play during Furman's 14-0 loss to UNC Greensboro on Sunday. The league allows games to be halted early on series finales if the margin reaches a certain number.

UNCG entered the series leading NCAA Division I in batting average (.356) and increased it six points to .362 by batting 427 (50 for 117) against Furman.

* Lander's offense was in high gear, scoring 37 runs in a Peach Belt Conference sweep of UNC Pembroke. The Bearcats hit eight home runs, giving them 77 in 46 games.

The Bearcats pushed their NCAA Division II record of consecutive games without being shut out to 267.

* The NJCAA Region 10 standings have a new look at the top. Spartanburg Methodist won three of four over USC Sumter to supplant the Fire Ants in first place. The Pioneers have a one-game lead over USC Sumter and USC Lancaster with one cycle of four-game conference series remaining. Pitt CC (two games back) and Florence-Darlington Tech (three out) also have a chance to finish first with the right series of events.

* USC Lancaster's four-game sweep of Louisburg extended the Lancers' winning streak to 10 games.

* USC Aiken picked up a nice 2-1 out-of-conference series win over No. 9 Florida Southern, although the Mocs won Game 3, 17-8.

* USC Beaufort wrapped up the top seed for The Sun Conference Tournament with a sweep of then-second-place Southeastern.

* USC Upstate was swept in a three-game series by Atlantic Sun Conference leader Kennesaw State but could be wondering about what might have been. The Owls scored the winning run in the seventh inning or later in all three games.

* The Voorhees program continues to show improvement under Justin Thomas' direction. The Tigers won four games at (Charlotte) College of Faith to improve to 14-17. It's Voorhees' most wins in a baseball season since 2004.

* Winthrop won two of three over Radford and could have had a sweep had it not been outscored 10-0 over the final four innings of a 15-8 loss on Saturday.

* Wofford entered the week having lost six straight games and eight of its last nine. The Terriers responded with four straight wins. They scored 10 runs in each of three games with The Citadel.

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