With their 19-5 win against Alabama on Sunday night, the Clemson Tigers avoid elimination to stay alive in the NCAA Super Regional, and now stand just one win away from Omaha.
As has been the case several times in recent weeks, the Tigers came into tonight’s game with their backs against the wall, and just like in last weekends case, they performed brilliantly. Clemson came out strong early and never let up, pounding out 20 hits and scoring 19 runs on their way to a 19-5 win over 16th ranked Alabama Sunday night in game two of the Super Regional between the teams.
Following last nights 5-4 loss to the Tide, Clemson Head Coach Jack Leggett told his team that they had been here before. And they indeed had, just as recently as last weekend in Auburn, Alabama. The result last weekend? The Clemson Tigers responded and won the next two, securing their spot in the Super Regionals against another team from Alabama.
Like last weekends series, the Tigers are playing for more than just a victory this weekend, they are playing to get another chance. Tonight’s game was an elimination game for the 13th ranked Tigers, and a victory would give them another chance at Alabama on Monday, and put them just one win away from the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
With those things on the line, the Tigers came in very aggressive early, and that aggressiveness paid huge dividends early and often. Before it was all said and done, the Tigers not only had 19 runs on 20 hits, but also had three home runs, one of which was a grand slam by Brad Miller.
The Tigers got it rolling in the first inning, and did most of the damage with one out in the inning. Will Lamb led things off with a ground-out to second base, but Mike Freeman followed that up with a single to left field. Next up, Jeff Schaus drove a ball up the middle on what looked like a double play hit, but the pitcher got enough of it to knock it down and it turned into a single for Schaus, moving Freeman to second.
Kyle Parker was up next and with two on and one out Parker hit a ground ball through the left side into left field, pushing Schaus to second and scoring Freeman from there. Brad Miller then walked before John Hinson hit a single up the middle that plated two more runs in Parker and Schaus. Richie Shaffer flied out to right field next, but earned the sacrifice and RBI when Miller tagged up on the play and score the Tigers sixth run of the inning. Wilson Boyd the worked a walk in five pitches, but the inning would end on a pop out to left field by Will Lamb.
Tigers starting pitcher, sophomore righty Scott Weismann, came out throwing strong in the first inning, giving up just one hit but retiring the other three batters he faced that inning. After one, the Tigers led 6-0.
After a quiet offensive outing by Clemson in the top of the second, Weismann went to work in the Tide again in the bottom of that inning. After giving up a lead-off home run to Jake Smith, his second of the regional, he again retired the next three batters he faced, and continued to be in control while doing so. After two innings, it was 6-1 Tigers.
Brad Miller led off the top of the third for the Tigers and lined out to center field, but the next two batters faired much better. John Hinson took the third pitch he saw in the at-bat over the center field wall for a solo home run, and the next batter Richie Shaffer took Alabama’s Adam Morgan’s very next pitch for another ride, this time blasting a shot off of the top of the scoreboard in left-center field. Morgan retired the next two batters, Boyd and Spencer Kieboom, on fly-outs, but more damage had been done.
Weismann came out again for the third with a big lead to work with, and again he made fairly short order of the Alabama hitters. The Tide did manage one run on two hits and an error in the inning, but after three full innings the Tigers were still in complete control, up 8-2.
The Tigers got run more run in each of the next two innings, one on an RBI single by Jeff Schaus that scored Mike Freeman in the fourth, and the second when it was Freeman earning the RBI, hitting a double to left field and scoring Boyd in the fifth.
Scott Weismann was still in control of the Bama hitters, giving up one more run on three hits in the fourth inning, but sitting them down in order, 1-2-3 in the fifth.
Then the Tigers would get another huge inning of work out of it’s hitters in the sixth inning. After Kyle Parker earned another walk to start the inning, he advanced to second on a passed ball. Brad Miller then singled through the left side into left field, pushing Parker to third. After another pitching change by Alabama, Hinson walked on five pitches, moving Miller to third. With the bases now loaded, Richie Shaffer hit a single to left field, scoring Miller, and Parker and moving Hinson to third.
Wilson Boyd then earned another walk in the inning, moving Shaffer and Hinson up 90 feet each and loading the bases for the second time in the inning. Spencer Kieboom then walked, the fourth walk of the inning for the Tigers, scoring Hinson and again leaving the bases loaded. The next two Tiger hitters, pinch hitter Mike Epps and Mike Freeman, struck out swinging. With the bases still loaded, Jeff Schaus singled to right field, scoring Boyd and Shaffer.
Kyle Parker then came to the plate for the second time in the inning, and again he earned his second walk of the inning, once again loading the bases for Clemson. Brad Miller was the next batter up, and he took the opportunity to make a huge play and blasted a grand slam home run to left field, scoring Parker, Schaus and Kieboom. With the bases now clear, Hinson came to bat and ended the inning with a pop-out to foul territory, but the Tigers had put the game well out of the reach of Alabama. After scoring nine runs on just four hits in the sixth, they now led 19-3.
Weismann again came out to pitch the bottom of the sixth, and just like the first five innings he was in control. Despite giving up two doubles in the inning. Scott would give up only one more run on those two hits, and he got out of it stranding one Bama base-runner.
After an eventful inning by the Tigers in the seventh, junior righty Josh Thrailkill came out to pitch in place of Weismann, and he pitched well to. Josh gave up one run on a solo homer by Wilson, but got the other three batters he faced to ground out, foul-out, and strike out.
The Tigers then went scoreless in the eighth and ninth innings, and two Tiger pitchers, left-handed freshman Joseph Moorefield and right-handed sophomore David Haselden, continued to dominate the Alabama hitters the way the Tiger’s first two pitchers had and neither one gave up a hit or a run.
Clemson starter Scott Weismann earned the win, going six strong innings giving up just three earned runs on nine hits. Adam Morgan suffered the loss for the Crimson Tide. Morgan was roughed up for eight earned runs on seven hits in just two and a third innings.
Jeff Schaus was 4-for-6 for the Tigers with three RBI’s, and Brad Miller was also had four hits, going 4-for-5 with four RBI’s, all of those RBI’s came on a grand slam in the Tiger’s nine run sixth inning. Kyle Parker finished 2-for-4 with two walks. John Hinson hit his 16th home run in the game. Richie Shaffer hit his fifth.
The six run first inning was the most runs scored by a Clemson Tiger team in the first inning of an NCAA Tournament game since 1959, when that Tiger team scored six runs in the first inning against Florida State University in a regional game that was played in Gastonia, North Carolina.
The two teams will now meet again on Monday at 1:00 for the do-or-die game, the winner going to Omaha and the loser being done for the season. Freshman Dominic Leone will get the nod for the Tigers.