By: CofC Sports Media
A baseball player's first moments on a Major League Baseball field are usually memorable enough but for former College of Charleston standout Taylor Clarke, the realization of his childhood dream came with a bit of history when he became the first pitcher in MLB history with both a save and a hit in his big league debut for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
Clarke gave many in attendance – as well as those watching at home – little reason to doubt the talent that has made him one of the top prospects in the Diamondbacks organization. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-hander tossed three shutout innings in relief of former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, striking out two and allowing only two baserunners to earn the save in his first appearance in The Show. He would also collect an infield single in his first MLB at-bat to become the first pitcher in MLB history with both a save and a hit in his Major League debut since saves became an official statistic in 1969.
The former Cougar standout entered in the seventh inning with the Diamondbacks leading 6-0 and made the most of his first pitch in The Show, inducinga soft groundout to shortstop off the bat of Javier Baez. Six pitchers later, he had another career milestone under his belt. In a 3-2 count to Wilson Contreras, Clarke tied up the Cubs catcher with a filthy four-seam fastball diving down and in to record his first career strikeout.
A single off the bat of Jayson Heyward and a wild pitch would put Clarke in a bit of a jam, but he handled the situation with aplomb and forced Daniel Descalso into a groundout to second to complete his first Major League inning.
The 2015 First-Team All-American checked off another career first in the very next at-bat of the game, reaching on an infield single to collect his first Major League hit and complete one half of the history-making feat. Fast forward through a scoreless eighth and two routine outs in the ninth to a never-before-seen moment, as Clarke blew two fastballs by Taylor Davis to battle back from a 3-1 count and complete the save.
Clarke was drafted in the third round and 76th overall by the Diamondbacks in 2015 after putting together two of the best seasons in program history at the College of Charleston. The 2015 Colonial Athletic Association Pitcher of the Year compiled a 23-5 record with a 2.10 earned run average and 235 strikeouts in 218.1 innings at The College. He earned All-America honors from five different organizations during the 2015 season, when he went 13-1 with a 1.73 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 114.1 innings to lead the Cougars to their second straight NCAA regional appearance.