Winthrop won its fourth straight game behind a three-run home run off the bat of Roger Gonzalez and a 13-hit attack to defeat Clemson 5-4 on a rainy Tuesday night at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
The win improves the Eagles’ record to 7-3. Clemson (7-4) still leads the all-time series 19-6. Winthrop will be back in action 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon at USC Upstate and will host Maryland-Eastern Shore in a three-game weekend series that gets underway on Friday at 4 p.m.
Eagles closer Joey Strain earned his third save as he came on in the ninth and worked his way out of a two-out jam by ending the game with a strike out with the tying run at third base.
Winthrop finished the game with 5 runs on 13 hits and proved it is not how hard the ball is hit, but where the ball is hit that matters as seven of the Eagle hits did not get out of the infield. Tyler Asbill and Brad Kaczka collected three hits each and Kyle Edwards had two singles for Winthrop. Clemson compiled 11 hits off four Eagle pitchers with Chase Pinder, Eli White and Reed Rohlman leading with two singles each.
Sophomore Josh Strong earned the win in his first start of the year as he went 5 innings and left the game with a 5-2 lead. Clemson freshman southpaw Charlie Barnes took the loss as he was making his first collegiate start. Barnes allowed two runs on six hits, five of which were infield singles, in three innings.
Clemson jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Tigers catcher Chris Okey crushed a home run to left center, but Winthrop bounced back to take a 2-1 lead in the third as the Eagles strung together four hits, including three of the infield variety.
Kyle Edwards led off the inning with an infield single to third and then advanced to second and then third on consecutive wild pitches by Barnes. Tyler Asbill’s single through the right side scored Edwards with the tying run. Asbill then around to third after Babe Thomas’ infield single and a deep drive to right by Andrew Paulsen that was caught for the first out, but advanced the runner. Following a line out to third by John Menken, Mark Lowrie slapped a shot that shortstop Eli White knocked down, but could not make a play on, allowing Asbill to score the go ahead run.
Gonzalez gave the Eagles a 5-1 lead with two outs in the fifth inning when he drove an outside pitch from Tigers reliever Alex Schnell over the right field wall for his first home run. Scoring ahead of him were Paulsen and Lowrie, who had reached after being hit by pitches. Clemson thought it had gotten out of the inning when Paulsen was called safe on a pick-off tag at second base.
Clemson touched up Strong for its second run in the bottom of the fifth after Andrew Cox led off with a walk, moved to second on a passed ball and then came home on a double down the left field line by White.
The Eagles threatened in the seventh and eighth innings. Lowrie led off the seventh with a single to left and advanced to second on a fielding error by the left fielder. He moved over to third on a ground out by Gonzales. Brad Kaczka then reached first on a bunt single, but Lowrie stayed at third. The inning ended on a diving catch by Tiger center fielder Tyler Slaton that robbed Edwards of an RBI single.
In the eighth inning, Thomas doubled down the right field line with one out off reliever Taylor Vetzel but was left stranded.
Clemson rallied for two runs in the bottom of the eighth. Rohlman walked and Tyler Krieger followed with a single to left. Winthrop brought in Freddie Sultan to relieve Michael Greene who gave up a single through the right side by Steven Duggar that scored Rholman. Travis Shelley was then brought in to face Okey who hit a fly ball deep enough to right center to move Krieger over to third. Duggar tried to steal second, but was cut down by Gonzalez. Krieger scored on an infield single by Chase Pinder to make it a 5-4 game. Winthrop then caught a break when pinch hitter Robert Jolly singled to right field. Pinder advanced to third, but was tagged out after he slid past the bag to end the threat.
Strain came on for the save opportunity and allowed a base hit to Cox to lead off the ninth. Cox was moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt. Strain struck out Slaton for the second out before Rohlman reached on an infield single to put runners on the corners. Strain caught Krieger looking to close out the victory.