DURHAM, N.C. - Dominic Leone and David Haselden combined to shut down Georgia Tech, leading the sixth-seed Clemson Tigers (40-17) to a 9-0 victory over the third-seed Yellow Jackets (39-18) in the opening game of the 2011 ACC Tournament at Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Wednesday.
The Yellow Jackets, who were held without a run for the first time since June 1, 2008, fell in their opening game at the tournament for the third straight season. The team's struggles at the plate Wednesday came mostly with runners on base, as Tech went 0-for-9 with players in scoring position.
Clemson starter Leone (6-2) went five innings and earned the win, after working out of several jams when the game was still tight.
Georgia Tech had Leone on the ropes early, loading the bases in the first. With one out, Jacob Esch walked and advanced to second on a single by Matt Skole. Leone issued another walk, this time to Jake Davies. But Leone induced Sam Dove to ground into a fielder's choice at the plate and struck out Daniel Palka to end the inning.
Leone called this sequence "a crucial point in the game. I tried to bear down and throw strikes and let my defense make plays."
Georgia Tech second baseman Matt Hyde doubled off the left-field wall to start the bottom of the second for the Yellow Jackets. But Leone notched a pair of strike outs and emerged unscathed.
Clemson drew first blood in the fourth. Will Lamb singled with one out and advanced to third on a two-out single by Jeff Schaus. Chris Epps had grounded into a double play in the same situation in the first but took advantage of a second chance. The senior from Stone Mountain, Georgia drove a 2-1 fastball deep into the right-field stands, putting Clemson up 3-0.
The home run was Epps' ninth of the season. Epps also had a superb running catch on a Matt Skole liner in the third.
Leone saved his best for last. Speedy Tech center fielder Kyle Wren led off the fifth with a triple down the right-field line. The heart of the Yellow Jackets order couldn't bring him in, as Leone retired Jacob Esch on a pop-out and fanned Skole and Dove.
Leone gave way to his bullpen after five innings. Haselden pitched four scoreless innings, earning his third save of the season.
Clemson added to its lead in the seventh. Catcher Spencer Kieboom led off with a walk. Jason Stolz bunted into a fielder's choice. John Hinson lashed a double off the left-field wall and Phil Pohl scored Stolz with a sacrifice fly. That drove Pope (11-4) from the mound.
Pope said that he "didn't have a feel for my slider and they jumped on my first-pitch fastballs."
Three Georgia Tech relievers finished up.
Clemson broke open the game in the ninth, scoring five runs. Richie Shaffer and Jeff Schaus each had a two-run double in the inning.
Schaus ended the game with four hits in five at-bats.