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Tigers get a bounce back series win against Panthers

Rhylie Ladoucer
Freshman pitcher Aidan Knaak heaving a ball off the mound in his impressive performance versus the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday, April 20, 2024.

The No. 5 Clemson Tigers (32-7, 13-5 ACC) bounced back after their recent series loss to NC State, defeating the Pittsburgh Panthers (16-21, 5-16 ACC) 2-1 in their series at Doug Kingsmore Stadium this past weekend.

The series was tied up 1-1 going into the final game in Saturday’s doubleheader, though Clemson dominated for the entirety of the 9-2 finale. 

Graduate catcher/infielder Jimmy Obertop tied a school record with three home runs in five at-bats to become the 18th player in Clemson baseball history — and the third player this season after Will Taylor and Blake Wright — to record three homers in a single game. 

The series opener felt familiar as the Tigers came back from a four-run deficit to win the game 6-4. 

The Panthers tacked up all four of their runs for the game in the initial three innings. Junior catcher Jayden Melendez scored the first off of a wild pitch by Clemson pitcher Tristan Smith. The subsequent three runs, all scored in the third inning, came from a costly two-out error in the outfield and a balk.

Obertop got Clemson on the board with a solo home run in the fourth inning. After sophomore Jacob Jarrell popped a sacrifice fly out to left field to give the Tigers a run, freshman Jarren Purify and Cannarella hit back-to-back doubles, bringing them within one. 

Following Alden Mathes’ pinch-hit single that tied the game up at four runs a piece, Obertop gave Clemson the lead with his second solo home run of the day. Purify sealed the comeback with a safety squeeze bunt to end the contest.

Game two of the series saw an 8-4 upset by the Panthers as the Tigers struggled to get anything going from behind the plate. Senior pitcher Jack Sokol threw a clinic of six scoreless innings in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader, finishing with a full stat line of an earned win, five hits, two walks and four strikeouts. 

The Panthers started hot offensively, scoring all eight of their points within the first four innings of the contest. The rally began with outfielder Dom Popa grounding a two-out, two-run single, followed by junior infielder Luke Cantwell hitting a run-scoring single in the first two innings.

After a run-scoring double by C.J. Funk, graduate catcher/infielder Josh Spiegel smashed a three-run homer. The scoring run ended after a bases-loaded walk that took the Panthers up 8-0. 

Cam Cannarella assisted the Tigers in scoring their first run in the seventh inning on a fielder’s choice. Wright followed with a three-run homer to cut the deficit to four runs; unfortunately for the Tigers, it was too little too late for a comeback, as they dropped game two of the series. 

The Tigers got it done at bat and defensively as freshman right-handed pitcher Aidan Knaak was on a tear, pitching 5.2 scoreless innings. 

Pittsburgh scored both of its runs late in the game in the bottom of the eighth. Their redemption arc, however, was immediately counteracted by Wright and Obertop, who both responded with homers. 

The Tigers will travel to Athens, Georgia, to take on the No. 20 Georgia Bulldogs on Tuesday, April 23, at 7 p.m. at Foley Field. 

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Angelo Feliberty
Angelo Feliberty, Senior Reporter
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