Clemson University

Gamecocks, Tigers open diamond seasons

South Carolina and Clemson each began their baseball seasons over the weekend, with varying results.

Each had its proposed season-opener washed out, instead playing a doubleheader on Feb. 23. The Tigers won both of their games against Mercer, on the way to a sweep of the three-game series, while the Gamecocks split their first two against East Carolina before winning the rubber match.

Clemson leaped to No. 19 in Baseball America's rankings and USC, despite the loss, also moved up. The Gamecocks are No. 10 in this week's poll.

Freshman Chris Epps led the way for the Tigers, going 6-for-10 on the weekend, but Wilson Boyd supplied the power with three home runs and six RBIs. Veteran catcher Doug Hogan smacked three doubles and a homer.

Rock Hill native and former Northwestern High School standout Ryan Hinson gave up five hits and two runs in five innings for the win in Game 1 and the series also marked the return of Clemson shortstop Stan Widmann. Sidelined for all but six games last year when doctors removed non-cancerous tumors from his spine, Widmann had two hits and scored two runs.

In Columbia, USC opened the year with a 22-5 bashing of the Pirates before ECU returned the favor with a 13-4 romp in the nightcap. The Gamecocks won the third game 7-6 in 11 innings, after giving up the tying run in the top of the ninth.

Sophomore Kyle Enders delivered the game-winning hit in Game 3, finishing a 5-for-13 weekend. He hit one of USC's nine homers, the others coming from Phil Disher (two), Justin Smoak (two), SEC Player of the Week Reese Havens (two) and freshman Whit Merrifield (two). Smoak's belts left him with 41 for his career, just seven short of the school record set by Hank Small.

The offense was nothing new for USC, which seems to set all sorts of offensive records during every early season. The problem was the pitching -- outside of Game 1 starter Mike Cisco, USC's staff was very hit-or-miss.

Clemson travels to College of Charleston on Friday before playing USC on Saturday in Columbia. The Tigers and Gamecocks clash again on Sunday in Clemson.

• THE RIVALRY: The USC-Clemson all-sports season rivalry notched another chapter in it before this weekend's baseball clash. The Tigers' women's tennis team swept USC 7-0 over the weekend, improving Clemson's lead to 5-3.

The nation's top-ranked singles player, Clemson's Ani Mijacika, led the way, beating Gira Schofield in singles and pairing with Carol Salge in doubles for the Tigers' third straight win over a ranked opponent. It was USC's first loss of the season.

Clemson has beaten USC during this school year in football, men's basketball, women's soccer, men's swimming/diving and women's tennis. USC won in men's soccer, women's basketball and women's swimming/diving.

There are five matches left -- the two baseball games this weekend, a men's tennis match on April 9, another baseball game on April 9 and the final baseball game on April 16. The rivalry ended tied 7-7 last year.

• WRAPPING IT UP: Clemson's Michelle Parkhurst was named the ACC's Most Valuable Swimmer at the ACC Championship, although the Lady Tigers placed fifth. Parkhurst set school or conference records in five events, winning three ACC titles and contributing to a fourth in the 200 freestyle relay.

The Tigers' men will compete this weekend at the ACC Championship.

• WRAPPING IT UP II: USC sent both of its swimming and diving teams to the SEC Championship and returned with an eighth-place finish (men) and a ninth-place finish (women).

Nicholas Walkotten finished second in the 200 butterfly, setting a school record.