William and Mary came within one run of tying its opening series against the Clemson Tigers in a second-game comeback but fell just short in a scoreless ninth inning. In a tight set of one-run games where every hit mattered, Clemson swept a close series to see the Tribe start its season 0-3.
The Tribe’s season opener started well Thursday at Clemson when senior outfielder Ryan Hall opened by scoring a three-run home run in the fifth inning. Things were looking good for the College as it came into the ninth inning, up 4-1 against the Tigers. However, Clemson answered with a wild ninth, scoring twice on a single from senior Robert Jolly and then once more on a wild pitch to complete its comeback and tie the game at 4-4. The Tribe wasn’t able to find a response in the extra inning, getting sophomore infielder Patrick Ryan to first in vain before striking out. Senior Chris Williams’ single for Clemson put the game away, 5-4, sending the Tribe into Friday looking to tie up the series.
The College opened scoring once again Friday with a one-run homer from junior catcher Hunter Smith. Back-and-forth runs from both teams sent the College into the eighth inning with a four-run deficit, 7-3. The College faced down three Clemson pitchers to put up three runs on two singles; when Clemson failed to answer back, it entered the ninth only one run behind. Clemson pitcher Mat Clark made it a short affair and three quick outs (ground out, foul out and strike out) meant there would be no shot at extra innings for the Tribe as it fell 7-6.
The series’ third game was a low-scoring affair. Clemson won 2-1 with runs in the second and fourth innings, whereas the Tribe was only able to answer with one in the sixth as Clemson swept the series in the third one-run game in a row.
After sophomore pitcher Wade Strain opened the strong start to the College’s first game, freshman pitcher Jacob Haney got his first start as pitcher for the Tribe; he threw for four innings and allowed two runs. In addition to Haney and Strain, junior pitcher Bodie Sheehan, sophomore pitcher Jamie Sara and senior pitcher Charlie Fletcher all pitched multiple innings for the College. Fletcher, the star of last season’s bullpen for the Tribe, served as a relief pitcher in two crucial innings of the first and third games of the series. Sheehan, the most experienced pitcher left on the team after an offseason pitching overhaul, pitched for seven innings while allowing only a 1.29 ERA. The College led 4-1 in those opening seven innings to the series while Sheehan was on the mound.
Junior infielder Zach Pearson shined throughout the series; his four hits and two runs from 11 times at bat led to the best batting percentage on the team. He’ll see if he can maintain a number close to his current .364 as the season wears on. Last season he averaged .190. Another series standout was Hall, who led the team with four runs batted in and helped mount the impressive eighth-inning comeback attempt in the second game of the series.
Last season, the College went 18-7 at home. It hopes to get its first win of the season against VCU at home in Williamsburg Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 4 p.m.