By Steven Bradley
CLEMSON — Baseball can be a funny game. Daniel Gossett was easily Clemson’s top performer Friday night against South Carolina, yet was the only one credited with a loss beside his name when it was over.
The sophomore right-hander pitched 6.1 innings of three-hit ball and allowed only one earned run — an outing that actually raised his ERA to a still-stellar 1.11 — but the Tigers committed three errors in the field and managed just three hits in a 6-0 loss in the series opener.
“I felt good,” he said afterward. “Fastball location, changeup location, slider location, everything felt good. It’s a huge rivalry game so everybody tries to be on point, and I felt like I did a pretty good job until I started walking people.”
That happened in the seventh inning with the Tigers still trailing just 1-0. The inning started well enough for Gossett, as he got the leadoff man to ground out.
T.J. Costen then came up and lifted an 0-1 pitch lazily into left field for an apparent quick second out. But Shane Kennedy couldn’t hang on to the ball, and the inning went downhill from there, as Gossett walked Tanner English and Graham Saiko to load the bases with one out and bring an end to his night after 110 pitches.
“That’s baseball, it happens,” Gossett said of the error. “You can’t fall apart after that. You’ve got to come back and make your pitches. I just let it get in my head and didn’t make my pitches.”
The Gamecocks eventually scored three runs in the inning to build a 4-0 lead, and at that point it seemed clear Gossett’s good work would go for naught.
“I told Coach (Jack Leggett) that I wanted pitch one more inning, and he said I was fine to go,” Gossett said. “I just wanted to get that last one in, and it just didn’t happen that way.”
He had breezed through the first four frames with a lone hit against him. Even after allowing the first two men to reach in the fifth, he had already gotten one out and induced Grayson Greiner to bounce weakly to shortstop for the second.
Freshman Tyler Krieger was unsuccessful in looking pinch runner Shon Carson back to third before throwing out Greiner, however, and Carson broke for home, sliding under Garrett Boulware’s tag to break the scoreless deadlock.
Gossett stranded two more runners in scoring position — Greiner and Saiko, who’d drawn a walk — to send the game to the bottom of the fifth with no further damage.
Clemson appeared to have tied the contest with two outs in its turn at the plate, as Boulware hit a shot to deep left that initially appeared to have cleared the fence. Instead, the ball bounced back into play and was ruled to still be alive by the third-base umpire, and Boulware was thrown out at third after beating the throw but sliding past the bag to end the inning.
“That was a pretty big play,” Leggett said. “At the time it was a 1-0 game, and that would have made it 1-1.”
As it turned out, the run Carson swiped on the groundout was all South Carolina and its starter, Jordan Montgomery, would have needed, as Clemson managed only three hits to drop its batting average to .250 on the season.
“You’ve got to score to win, so it really didn’t matter,” Leggett said. “The seventh and eighth innings weren’t that good for us, but we’ve got to score some runs to win. We only got one leadoff man on base tonight, and that makes it tough. We didn’t get a chance to use our speed or get a bunting game going or anything going offensively. And that’s kind of what happened to us against Winthrop in the middle of the week. We’ve got to get some leadoff men on base; we’ve got to hit some more ground balls, get on top of the baseball a little more and strike out a little less.”