The Charleston Southern baseball team entered Doug Kingsmore Stadium on Tuesday seeking its first win against Clemson. The Buccaneers had lost all 15 of their previous encounters with the Tigers, including a defeat to the Tigers in the 1996 Clemson Regional, Charleston Southern’s only appearance in the NCAA tournament.
So Alex Tomasovich knew he had a chance to make history when he came to the plate with the score tied and runners on second and third with two out in the top of the ninth inning. Tomasovich hit a liner to left, a shot those in the Charleston Southern dugout surely thought would fall.
Instead, Clemson left fielder Jay Baum made a diving catch to end the inning. In the bottom of the ninth, College of Charleston transfer Thomas Brittle slapped a game-winning RBI single into left to give Clemson a 3-2 win.
“I thought it was a hit,” Tomasovich said of his liner. “I saw the batter before getting almost all fastballs. So I was geared up for it. The first one (Patrick Andrews) threw, it went right on by me. The second, I squared up.”
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Charleston Southern coach Stuart Lake saw his team lose, 19-1, at Clemson last year.
On Tuesday, he nearly guided the Buccaneers (14-25) to one of their most impressive victories, battling adversity from before the first-pitch as the team arrived late forcing Charleston Southern to accelerate its pre-game routine.
“We haven’t showed a ton of power,” Lake said. “With their speed they played shallow all day. Good coaching, good play (on Baum’s catch).”
On Tuesday the Tigers continued to display a small margin for error.
To avoid a midweek loss, Clemson (21-17) required Brittle to extend his hitting streak to 11 games in the ninth, taking a pitching from Austin Weekley and lining it into left field to score Tyler Slaton who had reached on a leadoff walk.
“He’s a sidearm guy, so you gotta think about going the opposite way because the ball is going to tail away from you,” Brittle said.
Clemson escaped a number of jams.
With the score tied at 2 in the top of the seventh, Charleston Southern had runners on first and third and one out. Clemson coach Jack Leggett summoned Jonathan Meyer, who induced John Faircloth to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Meyer got Clemson out of another jam in the eighth as Charleston Southern pinch-hitter Jaren Sustar popped out with runners on first and second and two out.
And in the ninth, Tomasovich was robbed of a go-ahead hit.
Charleston Southern left 10 runners on base.
Clemson’s first two runs came via Richie Shaffer’s eighth home run of the season off Kevin Buran and a Steve Wilkerson sacrifice fly to center to score Slaton to give Clemson a 2-0 lead after three innings. But Buran kept Charleston Southern in the game, allowing two runs over 5 1/3 innings.
Clemson starter Daniel Gossett pitched five-plus innings, allowing two runs.
“(Buran) did a heckuva job keeping us off balance,” Brittle said. “It was closer than we wanted it to be.”