Two outs from recording the biggest upset in program history Tuesday evening, the USC Upstate baseball team saw No. 14 Clemson University belt a three-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to send the Tigers to an 8-7 victory at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
The Spartans (25-26) suffer their second heartbreaker of the year to a top 15 team in the country after falling 11-10 to No. 8 Kentucky earlier this season. The Tigers (38-15) win their eighth straight game with the walk-off thriller.
Facing an early 4-0 deficit, the Upstate offense broke out in the third inning, scoring six runs on four hits to take its first lead of the game. After loading the bases with one out, Luke Weber and Brody Greer were hit with back-to-back pitches to force home two runs and Tyler Lesch followed and delivered a three-run triple to centerfield to give Upstate a 5-4 lead. Trey Richardson added an RBI single to left later in the frame to cap the six-run inning and give the Spartans a two-run advantage.
After the offense came to life, it became the Chris Cox show, as the senior settled in and put five consecutive scoreless innings on the board as Upstate's 6-4 lead held true until the eighth inning when the Tigers scraped together a run to make it 6-5.
The Spartans had an answer again in the ninth, using small ball and another RBI base knock from Richardson to plate Lesch and make it 7-5 heading to the last of the ninth.
Upstate closer Chad Sobotka came on in the ninth looking to tie the school record for career saves with 20, but it was not to be as the Tigers put two runners with one out and Kevin Bradley lifted his first career home run down the left field line to give Clemson an 8-7 walk-off win. The long ball just scraped off the glove of a leaping Lesch as the Clemson faithful erupted with the walk-off win and eighth straight victory by the Tigers.
Cox's gem went down as a no decision, as the senior lefty was brilliant, tossing 7.0 innings and giving up just five hits and one earned run, while striking out four.
Brody Greer continued his historic run, using a single in the second inning to extend his hitting streak to 20 consecutive games. Gaither Bumgardner paced the offense with four hits and a run scored, while Richardson was the only other Upstate player to record multiple hits.
The Spartans left 11 runners on base, leaving the bases loaded in the third and sixth innings, while Clemson stranded 10 runners.
Upstate will regroup and prepare for its biggest conference series of the year, welcoming the University of North Florida to town for a three-game Atlantic Sun Conference at Harley Park. The Spartans will battle the Ospreys Thursday and Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m.