Clemson Tops Liberty On Opening Day

Brad Senkiw

CLEMSON — Clemson kicked off the 2020 season with a 5-3 victory over Liberty on Opening Day at Doug Kingsmore Stadium on Friday.

Adam Hackenberg drove in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning to and was among three Tigers with two hits each, and Clemson held Liberty to just four hits.

However, three Tiger pitchers walked 10 batters. 

"Great win. I thought our pitching staff did a great job," Clemson head coach Monte Lee said. "Too many free 90s when you look at the box score."

Clemson starting pitcher Sam Weatherly gave up one run on two hits through four innings, and the Tiger relievers combined to allow one run on two hits in the final five innings.

The Clemson offense racked up 10 hits and got a solo home run from Sam Hall that tied the game the bottom of the fourth inning after Liberty went up 1-0 on a bases-loaded walk.

"Offensively today I thought we did an outstanding job," Lee said. "We had seven walks and only five strikeouts. Certainly did a better job of competing with two strikes."

The Tigers took the lead in the fifth and added two more runs in the sixth before Liberty scored one in the seventh and one in the ninth, both on errors.

"We've got to pound the strike zone a little more," Lee said. "We need to be a little bit cleaner on defense. Four errors is too many...but overall a good win."

Play of the game: Hackenberg laced an RBI single to left field that scored Kier Meredith and gave Clemson the go-ahead run in the fifth inning.

"It's huge for Adam," Lee said.

Player of the game: Carson Spiers. The Clemson closer was asked to come in with two on and nobody out in the seventh inning. Liberty scored just one run that wasn't charged to Spiers. He went the rest of the way, striking out four batters and allowing no earned runs on one hit through three innings.

"When you've got the winning run at the plate, you better bring in the guy that you feel like you can count on to get the job done there," Lee said. 

Coach’s decision: Davis Sharpe, one of Clemson’s top returning players, didn’t play in Friday’s opener. Chad Fairey started at first base while Meredith was at DH, the two positions Sharpe can play in the lineup. Sharpe is scheduled to start on the mound Saturday, but he hit in 38 games as a two-way player last year.

"Quite honestly, Chad Fairey won the job outright," Lee said. "The lineup that was out there tonight was the lineup that won the job."

Stat of the game: Weatherly walked six batters, including five in the first 15 batters faced, but struck out a career-high eight batters in four innings.

"I did what I could do to control (the walks)," Weatherly said. "I thought I competed well with runners on (base), which is a positive."

Up next: Clemson will look to claim the series against Liberty with a win Saturday at 1 p.m. at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.