Schmidt, the former Allatoona High School ace, threw seven innings of five-hit ball while Duggar scored the Tigers’ first run and drove in two others in a 6-3 victory over South Carolina on Saturday.
The Tigers (6-3) faced the prospect of dropping the season series for a fourth straight year after falling at their home field to the Gamecocks, 6-0, on Friday night. But Duggar’s two-run single helped Clemson go up 5-0 in the fifth while Schmidt shut down the South Carolina’s potent lineup most of the way, allowing only a pair of solo homers to Max Schrock and LB Dantzler in the sixth.
“We’ve got some very exciting freshman, we’ve known that from the beginning,” Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. “Clate was outstanding (Saturday).”
The result sets up a series showdown today at South Carolina’s Carolina Stadium, where the Tigers have not won since 2010.
The mound matchup at frigid Fluor Field, home of the Class A Greenville Drive, was enough to make Tiger fans nervous. Young Schmidt was facing South Carolina senior Colby Holmes, a veteran of two College World Series who threw six no-hit innings his last time out.
But Duggar helped Clemson strike first, singling off Holmes and scoring on Garrett Boulware’s double moments later. Jay Baum made it 2-0 Clemson with a single to score Boulware. Holmes was in trouble again in the fifth when Steve Wilkerson singled in one run and Shane Kennedy walked to load the bases.
Adam Westmoreland replaced Holmes on the mound and Duggar struck the biggest blow for the Tigers with a two-run single up the middle to give Clemson all the runs it would need. And whenever South Carolina certainly had chances Schmidt and closer Matt Campbell were there to shut them down.
Schmidt bounced back from the homers by Schrock and Dantzler by striking out Joey Pankake and Grayson Greiner to end the inning.
Schrock led off the eighth for South Carolina (7-2) with a walk but Dantlzer hit a sharp grounder right at second baseman Wilkerson to start a double play and prevent a bigger inning. Campbell closed the game by
striking out Tanner English and Graham Saiko, flexing in celebration.
Clemson hasn’t had a lot to crow about in the rivalry. It came in losing 19 of the last 26 to South Carolina, including getting bounced by the Gamecocks from the 2010 College World Series and last year’s NCAA tournament.
“It was pretty good to beat a good program like that and hopefully we can carry the momentum into tomorrow,” Clemson center fielder Thomas Brittle said.
The baseball series between the schools, first played in 1899, is only behind football in the passion exhibited by fans of the state’s two biggest colleges. There were 7,125 fans that sat through an hour or so delay when a snowy mix hit the area. The turnout tied for second-best ever at seven-year-old Fluor Field, surpassed only by a 2009 rehab start by former Atlanta Braves great John Smoltz.
First-year South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said he didn’t expect Clemson to throw in the towel after losing the series’ opener. He said he’ll treat today’s contest as a practice for what Holbrook hopes is an NCAA super regional series down the road.
“It’s a nice series to win. It’s an important series to win,” Holbrook said. “Our guys will be excited and ready to go.”
Clemson’s Leggett said he hasn’t made too much of last night’s loss with his players, won’t act like Saturday’s victory was more than just one win and won’t dwell too much on today’s outcome, win or lose.
“There’s no question in my mind I want my team to go out there and play, relax and do what they have to do,” he said. “We’ll enjoy this one for now and get ready to play (today).”
Schmidt improved to 2-0 while Holmes fell to 1-1. Campbell picked up his third save of the season for the Tigers.