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The eighth-ranked Miami Hurricanes resumed their conference schedule on Friday in South Carolina, dropping their series opener to Clemson University by a disappointing final score of 3-1.
It was the Tigers who struck first on Friday night, as Clemson opened the game's scoring in the very first inning. After Steve Wilkerson led off the action with a single to centerfield, Erickson was charged with a balk that moved Wilkerson to second base. The lefthander then struck out the next batter, and second baseman Stephen Perez turned a gorgeous play at second to get Clemson slugger Richie Shaffer on a close play at first. Just when it looked like Erickson might get out of the inning unscathed, Phil Pohl ripped a ball up the middle that ricocheted off the pitcher and plated Wilkerson to give the Tigers a 1-0 advantage.
The Hurricanes struck back in the next frame, however, as Perez got the team going with a single to rightfield. After freshman Esteban Tresgallo walked, the second balk of the game was called on Tigers' righthander Kyle Brady, moving both runners up a base. On a weakly hit groundball to the second baseman, Jarred Mederos plated Perez and effectively tied the game at 1-1. It was Mederos' seventh run batted in this season.
Miami hitters battled out some lengthy at-bats against Brady, who threw his 95th and final pitch with only one out in the fourth inning. The Hurricanes drew five walks in the junior's brief stint, including an 11-pitch battle with Rodriguez in the third and a 10-pitch at-bat from Mederos. After two consecutive walks to Mederos and Garrett Kennedy, Clemson Head Coach Jack Leggett pulled Brady in favor of reliever Jack Campbell in the fourth inning. The righthander came through for the home team, promptly striking out Tyler Palmer and inducing a weak grounder from Dale Carey to end the Miami threat.
While Brady struggled with his control, his counterpart on the mound managed the series opener in better fashion. Though he ended the game with a loss, the Sarasota, Fla. native utilized a strong combination of offspeed pitches against Tigers hitters, striking out six batters in his six innings of work. He allowed seven hits and three runs in his seventh start of the year.
It looked like Clemson would regain the lead in the bottom of the fifth, but Erickson pitched his way out of a jam caused by two infield errors. After an errant throw from Mederos gave the Tigers a runner on second to lead off the inning, Shaffer was intentionally walked by Erickson to bring up Pohl. The senior weakly hit a routine groundball to Perez that was bobbled by the second baseman, loading the bases for the Tigers. But Erickson, determined to get out of the jam, struck out leftfielder Jay Baum on a beautiful sequence of pitches to end the threat unharmed.
Erickson couldn't get out of the next inning unharmed though, as the Tigers once again found themselves with a a runner on second base thanks to a fielding error by the Canes, this one by sophomore centerfielder Dale Carey on a slip in the outfield. After Jon McGibbon advanced to third on a groundout, Erickson uncharacteristically hit a batter to give the Tigers runners on the corners. A sacrifice fly from Thomas Brittle was enough to plate McGibbon, giving Clemson its first lead since the game's first inning. A double from Wilkerson down the leftfield line then plated Attansio, giving the Tigers a 3-1 lead.
Campbell effectively shut down the Hurricanes offense during his four-inning relief stint, allowing only one hit and walking none while striking out seven batters. The Miami offense struggled to get anything going for nearly five full innings, as a single from Rony Rodriguez in the top of the eighth gave the Hurricanes their first hit since the third inning. Though Adam Sargent and Chris Diaz pitched well in relief of Erickson, Miami's inability to drive in runners (nine men left on base) cost the team its series opener at Doug Kinsmore Stadium.
The two team's resume action tomorrow afternoon, when righthander Eric Whaley takes the mound for the Hurricanes opposite Dominic Leone of the Tigers. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m., and the game will be broadcast live on ESPNU.
Junior second baseman Stephen Perez extended his hitting streak to a season-high eight games with a single to centerfield in the second inning. The streak currently stands as the second-longest of any player all season, only to freshman Esteban Tresgallo's 15-gamer from Feb. 19 through March 13.
Though they tagged Kevin Brady for 95 pitches through less than four innings of work, the Hurricanes struck out 13 times against Tiger pitchers and left nine men on base.