Clemson slides past UNC Greensboro in regional opener, moves on to Vanderbilt on Saturday
CLEMSON — This is why he came to Clemson.
To play in June, to have a crack at an NCAA Tournament run after playing three years at Presbyterian, to suit up for a coach he admired greatly in Monte Lee.
“It’s something you kind of dream of when you’re a little kid,” Clemson right fielder Weston Jackson said Tuesday ahead of the Tigers’ Friday night regional against UNC Greensboro. “And it’s finally reality.”
Consider his postseason off to successful start.
Friday night, in front of 5,095 on hand at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, it was Jackson — the redshirt graduate transfer newcomer — who broke through when the Tigers needed it most in what became a 5-4 victory that advances Lee’s team on to a date with Vanderbilt on Saturday in the winner’s bracket.
By the time the middle of the fifth inning rolled around, three times had Jackson been slated to hit after designated hitter Seth Beer, and three times the Spartans had intentionally walked Clemson’s slugger to take their chances with his successor. Twice, Jackson had proven their decision the right one.
Not the third time.
With the bases loaded and two outs on the board, Jackson delivered a bloop single into right field that scored two runs, putting the Tigers ahead 2-1 for a lead they would not relinquish. One batter later, an Andrew Cox single combined with a UNCG error scored two more runs to give Clemson a cushion for the rest of the night — one it needed when UNCG’s Cesar Trejo hit a solo shot homer in the seventh, followed by another Spartans run in the eighth and another Trejo homer in the ninth.
Starting pitcher Alex Eubanks tossed 7.2 innings of two-run, five strikeout ball and the Tigers tacked on one more insurance run in the eighth when Logan Davidson singled to right field to bring in Jordan Greene. That, too, provided some reassurance when UNCG brought it to a one-run game in the ninth. Lefty Pat Krall finished it off under pressure for the save.
Now, Clemson turns its attention to Vanderbilt, the No. 2 seeded team in the regional and the biggest threat to a Tigers team hoping to punch its ticket to a super regional at Oregon State. In pitcher Kyle Wright, Clemson could be seeing the future No. 1 pick in this month’s Major League Baseball Draft when the two teams clash at 7 p.m. at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.