The best rivalry in college baseball resumed on Saturday when Clemson and South Carolina squared off at Fluor Field in Greenville.
The Gamecocks knocked off the Tigers 3-2 in walk-off fashion when Andrew Eyster ripped an RBI double into center to plate the game-winning run in the bottom of the eleventh. Clemson had come into the game having won ten consecutive one-run games.
The two teams will get right back after it tomorrow in Columbia and Clemson head coach Monte Lee will turn to freshman Ty Olenchuk as the Tigers attempt to even up the series. The right-handed pitcher is from the Columbia area and pitched for Dutch Fork in high school.
Last weekend in his collegiate debut against Cincinnati, Olenchuk was quite impressive. The 6-foot-1, 205 pound hurler was dominant, throwing 4.2 innings of scoreless baseball, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 3. The freshman was in complete control and had command of the plate all afternoon.
“I don’t know if I could have asked for more out of Ty Olenchuk in his first career start,” Monte Lee said afterward. “He was calm, he was cool and collected, but he’s also a very, very intense competitor. First time through the order, seven out of nine guys, he threw a first-pitch strike to. So very, very proud of him there. I thought he did a great job.”
It will be interesting to see how the young pitcher responds to making his first career start on the road in a place like Founder’s Park. Pitching in front of his hometown crowd and against the Tigers most fierce rival is something not many freshmen would be asked to do in their second career start.
The fact that Olenchuk is running out there speaks volumes about how much confidence the Clemson coaching staff has in him. If the Tigers have any hope of winning the season series against the Gamecocks for the fifth time in six seasons, Sunday’s game is a must win, and Lee and the rest of the coaching staff obviously think the hard-throwing freshman gives them the best chance at getting that win.