Entering the weekend everyone knew that the UVa and Clemson series would be an important measuring stick for how both teams were playing early in the season. With Clemson entering the series ranked as high as #4 and the Hoos as high as #6, neither team was expected to win handedly and certainly not sweep the weekend. The Cavaliers had other plans in mind and decided this weekend would be a good time to flex.
I can't imagine that Clemson was very confident entering Friday. Coming off a heated series loss to South Carolina that included a loss on Tuesday they were slated to face Danny Hultzen on Friday (remember, when tweeting to use the #Hultzen4GoldenSpikes hash). Hultzen picked up where he left off last weekend and dominated the Tigers. Over nearly 7 innings he struck out 14 batters and only gave up 5 hits. Combine that with the 3 walks he issued, he only faced 29 batters total and struck out 14 of them. 14 K's of 29 batters. The kid is pitching like Johan Santana but is actually winning because he doesn't have to play for the Mets! Hultzen's fellow 3rd year teammate Justin Thompson came in and finished off the final 2 innings by not giving up a hit and striking out 4 of the 8 batters he faced. All in all the Hoos struck out 18 batters on the night. Clemson entered the weekend with only 47 K's on the whole year. Yea, #DOMINATED. Even though the staff shined, the hitters didn't do too bad either. The top 6 hitters in the lineup each had at least one hit. It was quite a balanced night for the hitters. When this team executes at the plate and Danny Hultzen is on the mound, I don't expect them to lose too often, if ever.
Saturday turned out to be a little bit of a different story. The Hoos jumped out to an early lead thanks to a John Barr double and a Ryan Levine two out single. Unfortunately, Clemson scored in their half of the first to tie it up. UVa jumped back into the lead with an impressive 3 run 4th due to 4 straight hits from John Hicks, Steven Proscia, Kenny Swab, and Reed Gragnani. Not to be outdone, the Tigers struck back and scored 6 straight unanswered runs to take a 7-4 lead into the 8th inning. If there is one thing Clemson learned this weekend it is never think UVa has given up. Instead of finishing off the Hoos, Clemson let the boys stick around and score 3 runs in the 8th and a run in the 9th to take an 8-7 lead into the 9th and turn the ball over to Branden "Lights Out" Kline. Kline gave up a hit but struck out 2 and finished off the Tigers to get his 6th save of the season and give the Hoos an 8-7 win and the series victory.
Sunday was playing with house money for UVa. Having already taken the series from Clemson, the Hoos could have coasted and just accepted the 2 wins and traveled back to Charlottesville happy. Luckily for Cavalier fans, this team/program will never do that. Unfortunately, neither the pitching staff or the fielders had a stellar day. Fortunately, the bats were warm and nobody wearing a UVa baseball jersey says quit. In a game that saw both teams combine for 20 hits, 5 errors, 13 runs, and neither starting pitcher going more than 2.1 innings, the Hoos were the ones that came out on top and I am going to contribute that to their attitude. It's known throughout the ACC that Clemson has an almost "cocky" attitude and the mindset that they are better than other teams just because the have Clemson across their jerseys. In games like Sunday's, Clemson is going to have to play a little bit harder if they want to win. The Hoos won 8-7 and swept the Tigers cementing themselves as one of the top 2 or 3 teams(if not THE top) in the conference.
With the sweep, UVa moved up significantly in nearly all of the collegiate baseball polls. Instead of being ranked just outside or right inside the top 10 they have moved to anywhere from #4 to #7. Not too bad for a team many thought was going to have to rebuild after losing so much talent. The boys return to the diamond on Wednesday to face a power hitting JMU club with 3rd year Will Roberts on the mound. I will be providing updates on Twitter via @STLUVABaseball and as always, GO HOOS.