The defending national champion University of South Carolina baseball team won a thrilling 5-4 victory over Clemson on Tuesday night in Greenville, S.C. – but it wasn’t the outcome of the game that has fans buzzing.
Instead, the drama from a previous game continued to dominate the headlines.
After Gamecock center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. blasted a home run in Sunday’s 10-5 loss to the Tigers, Clemson head coach Jack Leggett asked umpires to examine the preseason All-American’s bat to determine if it was legal.
That challenge didn’t set well with USC head coach Ray Tanner, who described his relationship with Leggett as “damaged” on Tuesday.
“I’m offended by it,” Tanner said. “I don’t cheat and I don’t allow my players to cheat. We haven’t done anything wrong.”
Bradley’s bat was found to be legal, and he was permitted to continue using it.
Leggett did not address the controversy directly, saying only that it was his job to do “whatever it takes” to win games.
In addition to the bat challenge, Tanner responded to Clemson junior Will Lamb calling Gamecock pitcher Tyler Webb “soft” after Sunday’s game. That didn’t sit well with Tanner, either.
“I didn’t appreciate what Will Lamb said about one of my pitchers,” Tanner said. “He’s entitled to say anything he wants to say, but I don’t like it and my players didn’t like it.”
After splitting a pair of games over the weekend, Tuesday’s “Reedy River Rivalry” game at Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C. represented the rubber match in this critical early season series for both teams. After the teams battled to a 1-1 tie through six innings, Gamecock pinch hitter Jake Williams blasted a three-run homer in the seventh inning to put USC ahead.
In the eighth, Bradley scored on an RBI single from Christian Walker to put the Gamecocks up 5-1.
Tanner’s team withstood a furious ninth inning rally, as Clemson’s Brad Miller and Jeff Schaus led off the inning with back-to-back singles, and a walk to Richie Shaffer loaded the bases with no outs. Clemson scored three runs – the last of them courtesy of a Lamb triple – before closer Matt Price struck out pinch-hitter Jon McGibbon to end the game.
It shouldn’t be surprising that this rivalry has grown exceedingly testy this year. Last summer, the Gamecocks beat Clemson in a pair of College World Series elimination games en route to capturing the school’s first-ever national championship in a major sport. Both teams have been ranked as high as No. 4 in the country this year – making the rivalry one of the nation’s most competitive.
With the win, Carolina has won four out of five (and 14 of its last 20) against Clemson.
The Gamecocks are now 9-1 on the year, while Clemson dropped to 7-3.