The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: South Carolina baseball secures two walk-off wins against Clemson

Junior designated hitter Wes Clarke at the plate in South Carolina's first win over Clemson this weekend. The Gamecocks beat the Tigers with walk-off hits in both games in the series.
Junior designated hitter Wes Clarke at the plate in South Carolina's first win over Clemson this weekend. The Gamecocks beat the Tigers with walk-off hits in both games in the series.

The South Carolina baseball team took on archrival Clemson on Saturday and Sunday, leaving the field victorious thanks to walk-off hits from senior outfielder Andrew Eyster in both games.

Eyster's Saturday double in the bottom of the 11th inning and Sunday single in the bottom of the ninth sealed the series win for South Carolina in dramatic fashion.

Freshman right-hander Will Sanders took both wins for the Gamecocks with 1.2 hitless innings of relief to cap both games. Junior designated hitter Wes Clarke continued to dominate at the plate with four hits, a pair of home runs and five RBIs on the weekend.

Game one

Behind a solid outing from the bullpen and Eyster's late-game heroics, the Gamecocks came away with a 3-2 victory in an 11 inning game for the ages at Fluor Field in Greenville.

After junior right-hander Brett Kerry put two runners on base with no outs in the top of the 11th, South Carolina head coach Mark Kingston put his faith in Sanders to get out of the jam.

In what would be the turning point in the game, Sanders did his job and got out of trouble by inducing a 6-4-3 double play and groundout.

With the momentum in South Carolina's favor, junior outfielder Brady Allen led off the frame with an opposite-field double. Following a strikeout and intentional walk, Eyster came up to the plate with a chance to win the game. 

On a 1-2 pitch, he ripped an RBI double into center field, giving the Gamecocks the walk-off win. 

"Right there I was just trying to put the bat on the ball, especially with two strikes," Eyster said. "I knew that if I could at least make contact, I'd have at least a chance of moving guys over and scoring them."

After junior right-hander Thomas Farr made it through six innings of one-run ball, the bullpen came through and delivered. Despite giving up a game-tying home run in the ninth, redshirt sophomore Julian Bosnic, Kerry and Sanders combined to pitch in five innings, allowing two hits and one run while striking out nine.

Despite striking out 21 times, the Gamecocks' offense compiled 15 hits, of which Allen, senior infielder Jeff Heinrich and junior first baseman David Mendham had three each in the win.

Game two

South Carolina found itself in an almost identical situation on Sunday afternoon at Founders Park. When the game was tied at 7 in the bottom of the ninth, Eyster hit a single into right center to bring home Allen from second for the game-winning run. The Gamecocks won 8-7.

"It's pretty crazy, pretty much the exact situation, with Brady on second and Wes on first," Eyster said postgame. "I don't think it could've been drawn up any better."

The game was back and forth throughout. Clemson sophomore shortstop James Parker hit an RBI double that put the Tigers on top just before Clarke knocked a solo home run in the third.

A two-run fifth inning powered by sophomore third baseman Bryar Hawkins and freshman catcher Jonathan French gave Clemson the lead again, but the Gamecocks got back on top with a four-run bottom half thanks to a solo shot from sophomore second baseman Braylen Wimmer and a three-run homer from Clarke.

After Clemson responded in the top of the seventh with four runs of their own to retake the lead 7-5, redshirt junior Andrew Peters came in to pitch for the Gamecocks and proved to be a pivotal part of keeping the Tiger offense at bay for the next two innings.

Peters threw four strikeouts and gave up one hit and no runs. He and starting pitcher senior Brannon Jordan were bright spots on the mound. Jordan struck out eight batters and gave up three hits and a single run in his four innings pitched.

"I was very confident," Kingston said postgame. "I'm confident in this team as a whole. I'm confident in a lot of these guys individually, and we've seen him do this a lot, so when he came up to the plate, we knew we had a shot." 

What's next?

On Tuesday, South Carolina will travel to Rock Hill to face the Winthrop Eagles at Winthrop Ballpark. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. South Carolina and Clemson will play again on May 11.