CLEMSON, S.C. -- Scott Berney flirted with disaster early against Florida State only to respond with his best outing in two months to catapult Clemson back into contention for the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship.
Following a 7-0 record to start the season, Berney became unraveled after defeating The Citadel on March 24. Clemson's right-handed hurler quelled every FSU rally on Monday to record his first win in seven appearances.
The No. 6 Tigers capped a three-game sweep of the No. 4 Seminoles (41-12, 13-8 ACC) with a 7-4 victory in front of 3,916 fans at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. The Tigers (40-12, 15-6) also ran their winning streak to four.
Berney (8-4) entered the game with four losses and two no-decisions in his previous six outings. The senior avoided catastrophe in the top of the fourth. Berney picked off center fielder Karl Jernigan to close the inning after allowing runners to reach second and third with one out.
Despite delivering 80 pitches in the first four innings, Berney minimized the damage and kept the Tigers in the contest.
"He did a nice job of getting out of that situation," said Tigers coach Jack Leggett. "He stopped the momentum and kept it on our side."
Said Berney: "I struggled in the fourth but I just gave up one run. We talk about damage control and then the offense gave me a huge lift."
With three ACC games remaining, Clemson trails conference leader Georgia Tech (39-12, 16-5) by one game. The Tigers will need assistance from Wake Forest and a strong showing of their own at Virginia to capture their first regular-season crown since 1995.
The Tigers erased a 1-0 deficit by scoring two runs in the bottom of the third inning. First baseman Mike Calitri walked to lead off the frame then was driven home on a double by right fielder Justin Singleton.
A high-chopper sailed over Seminoles' first baseman Ryan Barthelemy and Calitri chugged home when Chris Smith's throw to second skipped into left field. Leadoff hitter Casey Stone sacrificed Singleton to third for the inning's first out.
Patrick Boyd drove in Singleton with a ground out to second and gave Clemson a momentary 2-1 lead. John Halliday's sac fly to center field plated Barthelemy and knotted the score in the top of the fourth.
Seminoles starter Jon McDonald (9-3) walked two, hit another and surrendered one devastating hit in the fourth. A two out, bases-loaded double by Stone drove in three runs and chased McDonald from the game. Stone went 2-2 with three RBI for the Tigers.
"My teammates set the table for me," said Stone who is 11-of-17 with nine RBI in his last four contests. "I had the easy job. I'm aggressive at the plate and I came through by putting the ball in play."
Berney started the fifth inning with a 5-2 lead while McDonald was removed after just 57 pitches. McDonald allowed five earned runs on four hits while striking out one.
Florida State finally drove Berney off the mound in the sixth. After a gritty 107-pitch performance, he was relieved by Ryan Childs with runners on first and second. Berney struck out three, walked three and was responsible for three runs and five hits.
Childs lacked control, walking the only batter he faced to load the bases with two outs. Former North Augusta phenom Kevin Lynn stepped in and ended FSU's scoring threat by coaxing a ground out by Pichi Balet.
Jeff Baker padded Clemson's lead with a solo homer in the fifth inning. Baker's sixth home run of 2000 gave the Tigers a 6-2 advantage.
Clemson, who has won 40 or more games for 15 consecutive seasons, travels to Liberty on Thursday before wrapping up its season with a three-game series at Virginia (23-27, 9-12). Georgia Tech can capture the number one seed in the ACC Tournament (May 17-21) with two wins at Wake Forest this weekend.
Reach Jimmy DeButts at (706) 823-3221.
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