Clemson, SC- The Tigers seemed to pick up right back where they left off on offense yesterday, and that offense was needed in the end. The runs scored also seemed to calm the Tigers starting pitcher, true freshman Dominic Leone.
After a scoreless first by the Tigers, Tide hitters got the scoring started early, knocking in one run in the bottom of the first off of the Tiger freshman. The run was unearned though, and occurred after Alabama lead off hitter Taylor Dugas reached on a fielding error, advanced to second in a wild pitch, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and then scored on a single to right field off the bat of Ross Wilson. After that inning though, Leone would settle down and gain complete control of the Crimson Tide batters. Tide led after one, 1-0.
In the top of the second, Tiger hitters found their groove as well, and went to work on Alabama ace pitcher, junior righty Nathan Kilcrease. Kyle Parker led off the inning with a single through the left side, followed by a fly out by Brad Miller. With Parker still on first and one out in the inning, John Hinson came to the plate and took the sixth pitch he saw, a full count pitch, for a ride into the stands in right-center field. Shaffer then fouled out to the first base side, Wilson Boyd doubled, and then Spencer Kieboom lined out to center field to end the inning.
In the bottom of the second inning, Leone settled down and began his domination of the Alabama batters. After getting the first batter of the inning to ground out, Leone gave up a hit to Andrew Miller, but got the next batter, Brett Booth to ground into a double play. After two full innings, Tigers led it 2-1.
The third inning started right where the second ended for the Tigers. Chris Epps led off the inning with another single, this time through the right side, before Mike Freeman singled to center field. After Jeff Schaus flied out and Parker did the same, Brad Miller came to bat with the two runners on base, and he cleared the bags with a double to right-center field. John Hinson then ended the inning, lining out to the short stop, but not before the Tigers had again scored two runs to double their total thus far.
Leone came out in the bottom half of the inning, and he didn’t have to stand out there long. He sat the Bama batters down in the order he faced them, swinging, ground-out, and line out. After three, the Tigers led it 4-1.
Freshman Richie Shaffer picked up where he left off last night game in the fourth inning, this time blasting a home run to right-center field to lead off the top of the inning. The home run was Shaffer sixth of the season, and his second in this Super Regional. Boyd then reached on a throwing error before Kieboom hit into a double play retiring them both. Mike Epps then walked after working a full count, then stole second base before Mike Freeman pushed him to third on a single to second base. Jeff Schaus would then double to right field, moving Freeman to third and scoring Epps. The inning would end when the next batter, Parker, would ground out to the short stop.
In the bottom of the inning, Leone continued to dominate, and again he retired the side in order, ground out, ground out, and foul out. After the fourth inning was complete, the Tigers had again posted two runs, and now led the Tide 6-1.
The Tiger scoring took a break through the next two innings, going scoreless in the fifth and sixth innings, but Dominic Leone didn’t cool a bit. The Tiger hurler retired the Bama batters in order again in the bottom of the fifth, and gave up just one hit in the sixth before being replaced by junior righty Alex Frederick. Freddy came in with runners on first, second and third with two outs, and got the only batter he faced in the inning to pop up to second base to end the thread and strand three Tide base-runners. At the end of the sixth, the Tigers still held a 6-1 lead.
In the top of the seventh, the Tigers would again get what appears to be today’s magic number in runs for them, two. Brad Miller struck out to start the inning, but Hinson followed that up with a single to center field. The next batter up, the hot hitting Richie Shaffer, then blasted his second home run of the day and third in the last two days. This time, it was an absolute blast to dead center field, and this time it was with a runner on base. Boyd then grounded out to the pitcher before Kieboom doubled to right field. Epps then ended the inning though, striking out swinging.
In the bottom half of that inning, Frederick plunked the first batter Kelton, putting him on first base with no outs. The next batter up, Andrew Miller, then reached on a fielders to second base that retired Kelton. Miller then advanced to second on a throwing error by Tigers short-stop Brad Miller, his second of the game. With a runner on second and just one out, Frederick regained control and got Booth to fly out to left field before taking Brock Bennett down swinging in just four pitches. After seven full innings, the Tigers now led 8-1.
The Tigers again went scoreless in the top of the eighth, and again Frederick took care of business in the bottom half of that inning. Giving up just one hit, a double by Wilson down the left field line, Freddy would retire the other three batters he faced in the inning without giving up another hit or any runs. The score remained the same after eight full innings, 8-1.
The Tigers had one more chance in the top of the ninth to get some more insurance runs, but Bama pitcher Jonathan Smart retired the middle of the Clemson order, in order, fly out, looking, ground out.
Coming in to pitch for Frederick in the bottom of the ninth for the Tigers was freshman righty Kevin Brady. After giving up a lead off walk to the first guy he faced, and then going down 3-0 to the second batter, he got that batter to pop out on a 3-1 count. With a runner on first and one out and a pinch hitter coming to bat in Bama senior Cal Tinsley, Brady went to work again. He got the lefty to strike out swinging for out number two of the ninth inning.
Now just one out from Omaha, that magical number came up again, this time against the Tigers. You remember the number, right? Two. With one runner on and two outs in the inning, Brady gave up a two run shot off the bat of Brock Booth, and the score now was 8-3. The next batter up,
Brock Bennett then singled to third base and was moved over to second base on a single up the middle by Taylor Dugas. Now with runners on first and second, Bama hitter Josh Rutledge hit a single through the right side, loading the bases.
With the tying run now on deck, Jack Leggett decided it was time to make a pitching change, and brought in senior righty Tomas Cruz to replace Brady. Cruz came in with the bases loaded and two outs, and walked the first batter he faced, Ross Wilson, scoring another run for the Tide. With the bases still loaded and two outs, the score now 8-4, Cruz faced Clay Jones. Jones hit a grounder back to Tiger short stop Brad Miller, who would commit his third error of the game when he let the ball get between his legs and into center field. Two runs scored on the play, both unearned, and Bama was within two runs, and those two runs were at second and third bases.
Leggett again decided to make a pitching change, this time going with sophomore lefty Will Lamb to try to close out the deal. Lamb would get that batter, Jake Smith, to fly out to center field, stranding the tying runs on second and third and ending the game. The Tigers are headed to Omaha, Nebraska to play in the College World Series.
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