CLEMSON, S.C. – Jeff Schaus tripled, doubled and accounted for five of Clemson’s nine runs while leading the 16th-ranked Tigers to a 9-3 win over Duke in the series finale on Sunday afternoon at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
Schaus finished a home run short of the cycle while driving in two runs and scoring three times from the two-spot in the batting order. Sunday’s performance capped a dominant series by Schaus, who hit .692 with four doubles and a triple as Clemson (10-7, 3-2 ACC) took all three games from the Blue Devils.
The Schaus-led Tigers tagged 17 hits on Sunday to back a solid start from sophomore right-hander Scott Firth (1-0), who held Duke to three hits and two unearned runs over 6.2 innings. In his first start of the season, Firth allowed just one hit over his first five frames and struck out five for the game.
Clemson scored early and often, plating a combined five of their runs in the first four innings. Duke starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (1-1) had allowed just eight hits all season entering Sunday’s game, but the Tigers matched that in the first four innings on the way to a 5-0 lead. An RBI single from Phil Pohl in the first inning started the scoring, and Jason Stolz, Chris Epps, Richie Shaffer and Schaus all chipped in RBI over the next three frames.
Epps increased the lead to six runs in the bottom of the fifth with his second home run of the series. The long ball – which was only the third allowed all season by Duke – cleared the right field wall for Epps’ team-leading fourth homer of the season.
Firth, meanwhile, held Duke to one hit – a first-inning double by freshman Chris Marconcini – through his first six innings and retired 12 straight batters from the first through the fifth. He faced just two batters over the minimum through six innings with one of those Blue Devils reaching base on a fielding error.
Two more fielding errors by Clemson second baseman Steve Wilkerson led to two unearned runs in the seventh inning, however, as the Blue Devils cut the deficit to four runs at 6-2. Wilkerson committed a pair of errors within three at bats to allow Duke to load the bases, score runs on a fielder’s choice grounder by Dennis O’Grady and an Angelo LaBruna sacrifice fly and eventually bring the tying run to the plate. Clemson, however, used reliever Alex Frederick to force pinch hitter Ben Grisz to fly out to center field, leaving the bases loaded and the Tiger lead at four runs.
The Tigers used back-to-back triples from leadoff batter Will Lamb and Schaus in the bottom of the seventh to reclaim both of those runs and jump back on top 8-2. Junior Will Piwnica-Worms, who was 4-for-4 in Saturday’s game, gave Duke its final run with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly, but the Tigers took back even that run on an RBI single from Epps in the same inning.
Up next for Duke is a non-conference home game against Ohio at Jack Coombs Field on Tuesday, March 22, that precedes a three-game ACC series at rival and 17th-ranked North Carolina on March 25-27 in Chapel Hill, N.C.