Clemson scored six runs in the first inning and held Coastal Carolina at bay thereafter to defeat the Chanticleers 8-5 Wednesday night at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in Clemson in a matchup of national top-20 teams.
Coastal (13-4-1) is ranked 16th and Clemson (13-3) is 20th in the USA Today Baseball Coaches Poll.
Clemson is rolling, having won five straight games including a three-game weekend sweep of a North Carolina team that was ranked in the top five in the country.
The Chants had won five straight before going 1-2-1 on their current seven-game, 12-day road trip that began last weekend at the Seattle Baseball Showcase.
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Coastal held a lead in the final regulation inning in each of its three games in Seattle but only came away from the tournament 1-1-1. It lost 8-5 to San Diego after giving up six runs in the eighth and final inning to surrender a three-run lead, and allowed a game-tying ninth-inning run to defending national champion Oregon State in an 11-inning 4-4 tie. Those games were sandwiched around a 5-2 win over Washington, which won the Conway Regional last season.
Clemson didn’t need a comeback, holding a lead from nearly the outset.
“The tougher the competition becomes the more questions I have,” Coastal coach Gary Gilmore said following Wednesday’s game. “There have been some bright spots to build upon but too many mistakes on the mound, in the batter’s box and defensively for us to consider ourselves a regional contender at this time.
“We have approximately 40 games to figure out how to eliminate these issues or we know our fate,” Gilmore added. “No doubt in my mind that we can do it. The talent is here.”
Coastal plated a run in the first Wednesday on a Cory Wood double, Cameron Pearcey bunt single and Zach Biermann sacrifice fly before Clemson took command against CCU starting lefthander Scott Kobos.
The first four Clemson batters recorded hits, including junior shortstop Logan Davidson, who hit a two-run home run on Kobos’ fourth pitch of the game. Davis Sharpe hit a sacrifice fly and a two-out single by Bryce Teodosio put runners on first and second and chased Kobos.
Freshman righthander Nick Parker promptly gave up a three-run homer to freshman catcher Adam Hackenberg on a low and inside breaking ball. Kobos was charged with five earned runs in 2/3 of an inning.
Coastal answered with three runs in the top of the second to pull within two on a Kieton Rivers homer, Scott McKeon single, Jake Wright walk, sacrifice bunt, balk and sacrifice fly by Wood. But the Chants were unable to further cut the deficit.
Clemson added single runs in the fourth and fifth innings on a Sam Hall RBI single and Jordan Greene sacrifice fly, and the Chants added a run in the fifth on consecutive singles by Kyle Skeels and Jared Johnson and a throwing error.
Coastal loaded the bases with one out in the sixth inning on a Wright single, Keaton Weisz hit by pitch and Pearcey walk, but relievers Sam Weatherly and Holt Jones struck out Biermann and Skeels, respectively – both looking – to end the threat.
Both teams used five pitchers, and none for more than three innings. Dylan Gentry and Davie Inman combined to allow one hit, no runs and no walks with three strikeouts in CCU’s final three defensive innings.
Coastal had nine hits, and after recording double-digit hits in 13 of its first 14 games, they don’t have more than nine hits in any of the first four games of the road trip.
Coastal and Clemson split two games last season, with each team winning at home, and the Chants can gain revenge when the Tigers visits Springs Brooks Stadium in Conway on May 14.
Coastal is 10-46 all-time against the Tigers and fell to 5-35 at Clemson, though the Chants have been more competitive in recent years in the series, going 2-3 in the past five games and 4-8 in the past 11 games against Clemson since 2010.
The Chants complete their long road trip with a three-game series Friday through Sunday at Louisiana-Monroe that begins Sun Belt Conference play, then return to Conway for a series against Troy from March 22-24.