Harbin, D'Alessio Help Tigers Blast Phoenix Saturday Night


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - One reason Clemson is the No. 1 national seed this baseball postseason is its ability to win any kind of game.

Example:

Early Saturday, the Tigers won a tight, low-scoring pitcher's duel over UNC-Asheville, 3-0, in the opening game of the NCAA Regional tournament at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Clemson managed just six hits, but Shawn Clark allowed three in eight innings of relief to lead the Tigers to the win.

Late Saturday, Clemson did it with power.

Taylor Harbin and Andy D'Alessio twice hit back-to-back home runs, and the Tigers pounded out 15 hits in a 13-3 bashing of Elon.

The win puts Clemson (49-14) into the Regional championship game at 7 p.m. Sunday. The Tigers will face the winner of Sunday's 3 p.m. matchup between Elon and Mississippi State - the loser's bracket final.

The winner would have to beat Clemson twice to claim the region championship.

"I think it helped us to play this morning," head coach Jack Leggett said. "Just to get the jitters out and see some live pitching. Hopefully we'll be ready (Sunday), we'll play a tough opponent in either Elon or Mississippi State. I'm sure they'll be ready to give us everything they've got."

The Tigers chased Elon starter Steven Hensley (6-4) just a third of an inning. Hensley, who hadn't lost since the Tigers beat him 5-3 back on March 18, gave up a three-run home run to Harbin and a following solo shot to D'Alessio in a five-run first inning.

Hensley was replaced by Brian Ebert, who allowed the Harbin-D'Alessio tandem to swat back-to-back solo jacks again in the third inning.

"On the first one I was hoping he (Steven Hensley) would throw a strike. I was ready to go on the first pitch," Harbin said. "I got a fastball and just drove it the other way. I didn't know if it was going to get out, I hit it pretty high. Luckily, it kept carrying and got out.

"We've been swinging it well the last part of the season. A lot of the guys are really feeling comfortable with their swings, it's something we go out and work on every day. All the guys right now are just seeing the ball well and are in a good rhythm."

It marked the sixth time this season Clemson has hit back-to-back home runs, the last three involving Harbin and D'Alessio. D'Alessio has been part of all six of the tandems.

The Tigers added five more runs in the sixth inning, the key blow a two out, two run single by Stan Widmann.

The common denominator in both games Saturday was the pitching.

Steven Faris (9-3) pitched eight strong inning for Clemson, allowing just five hits and striking out seven. The only runs he allowed came via the home run for Elon - a solo homer by Chris Vasami and a two-run shot by Robert Rodebaugh.

"Overall, I thought I threw the ball pretty well," Faris said. "The defense behind me was outstanding. I made some mistakes on 0-2 pitches and they capitalized on that. I'm pretty happy overall, but I definitely could've pitched better."

Steve Richard pitched a scoreless ninth inning to nail it down.

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