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March 1, 2013
CLEMSON - It wouldn't be South Carolina-Clemson without a play seen as terrific by one side, and jobbing by the other.
Garrett Boulware hit a shot destined for the left-field bleachers, but Graham Saiko, thinking he might have a chance with the wind blowing in, leaped at the wall. The ball hit - what? - and ricocheted back into the field; Saiko hurriedly retrieved the loose ball and fired to third base, where Chase Vergason tagged Boulware as he slid off the bag.
The inning was over, the rally snuffed, and the Tigers complained long and loud. USC, knowing it had just gotten another close call (although the pressbox, at least, was in agreement that it was the right one), erupted from its dugout in one black-and-gray wave to engulf Saiko as he came off the field.
That play took away at least a base knock for Boulware, who at least had a double. Clemson coach Jack Leggett argued that the ball left the park - Saiko said it hit his glove, which hit the plastic line on top of the wall, and in any case, if a ball hits the line and comes back in, it is not a home run - and that the inning should continue.
"That was a big play at the time, it was 1-0," Leggett said afterward. "That would have made it 1-1.
"I saw it a little different."
It was just the latest in a series of close calls that have erupted in the longtime series. Leggett groused about a play during the Columbia NCAA Regional last year, when Jon McGibbon was ruled to have slid into Vergason on a double play. That negated a run, the first of the game, after starter Michael Roth had walked the bases full.
There was also the notorious "warm bat" affair in 2011, when Leggett asked the umpire to check the bat of Jackie Bradley Jr. after a home run, a move that made then-coach Ray Tanner rather testy in the post-game.
THE GAMBLER: Tanner achieved much of his success, especially in the postseason, when he went against the odds. Successor Chad Holbrook seems to be falling right in line.
USC started redshirt junior Brison Celek at designated hitter on Friday, instead of Kyle Martin, who had been DH'ing against right-handed pitchers. Although Martin has been sick this week, not dressing for a midweek affair against Furman, the decision still raised some eyebrows.
Celek has a career average of .194. He has not hit a home run in his career, and only has eight RBIs in 67 at-bats. In a huge game, a rivalry game, against an extremely talented pitcher in Daniel Gossett, why Brison Celek?
"I was just playing some hunches," Holbrook said.
Celek singled to start the fifth, then moved to second base when Grayson Greiner also singled. Holbrook immediately made a move, sending in Shon Carson to pinch-run for Celek; Carson scored the first run of the game when he was sacrificed to third, then Tanner English hit a grounder that was deep enough to get Carson home.
WOOLY: Former Clemson player Will Lamb once labeled USC pitcher Tyler Webb as "soft." Since then, Webb hasn't said much about it, but has done his talking on the mound.
Since Lamb said it, Webb has thrown seven innings in six games, yielding three hits, one run and three walks. He has struck out nine, including the side in the ninth inning on Friday.
BIG DADDY: Clemson freshman D.J. Reader stands 6-foot-3 and tips the scales at 335 pounds. His main gig at Clemson is playing defensive tackle.
Reader had 40 tackles, three quarterback pressures and one pass breakup, playing 236 snaps over 13 games, during the 2012 season. He pitches and plays infield for the Tigers' baseball team, but hasn't yet pitched in a game. He has had one at-bat this season, where he struck out.
LUMINARIES: Ali Rogers, Miss South Carolina 2012, threw out the ceremonial first pitch while clad in orange pants, a white shirt, boots and her tiara. Marcus Curry, Clemson's senior bullpen catcher, performed the national anthem.
THE RIVALRY SCOREBOARD: USC beat Clemson 6-0 in the first installment of the annual three-game baseball series and opened a 6-3 lead in the all-sports season series. One more win clinches the season series for the Gamecocks for the sixth straight year, barring any postseason matchups.
Date Sport Winner Score
9-1 WSoccer CU 1-0 (2OT)
9-7 Volleyball USC 3-0
9-18 MSoccer USC 1-0
10-26 WDiving USC 26-12
11-18 WBasketball USC 64-43
11-24 Football USC 27-17
12-2 MBasketball CU 64-55
2-3 WTennis CU 6-1
3-1 Baseball USC 6-0
*NOTE: Only head-to-head matchups are counted. Track meets or golf matches where USC and Clemson, plus other schools, competed are not eligible.
Eastern Illinois 11, Auburn 10
Kentucky 21, Akron 2
Vanderbilt 9, Illinois-Chicago 0
Gonzago 3, Arkansas 0
South Carolina 6, Clemson 0
Tulane 4, Alabama 0
Mississippi State 10, St. Joseph's 0
Ole Miss 11, Florida International 9
Miami 3, Florida 2
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