Tigers knock off top-seeded Sun Devils

by - Senior Writer -
The Tigers pounded out 14 hits against Arizona St on Monday. (Photos: fotoman)

OMAHA, NE - Omaha had endured two straights days of rain and torrential downpours, but just as Chris Epps stepped into the batter?s box to lead off the Clemson Tigers' game against No. 1 Arizona St. University in the College World, the clouds parted and the sun started shining brightly.

That same sun continued to shine on the Tigers (44-23) for the rest of the day as Clemson got outstanding pitching from starter Casey Harman and reliever Alex Frederick, hung the first loss of the season on ASU?s Seth Blair and defeated the Sun Devils (52-9) 6-3 at Rosenblatt Stadium on Monday, and now advance to play Oklahoma on Tuesday.

"I am proud of our kids," Clemson head coach Jack Leggett said. "We played a very good ball game today. I thought we played a complete game from start to finish. Our pitching was very good with Casey opening it up and gave us some great innings. And Alex came in, closed the door, did an outstanding job with men on base. Nobody out and the bases loaded, he came in and I think they only got one run, which was huge.

"And Mike [Freeman] had a couple, had a piece and two really strong and important double plays for us and just wanted to bat well. Our offense was clicking pretty well today. I think we had a good approach on their pitcher, and got some confidence going early with the bases loaded the first couple of innings, and we got the big hits with two outs, we got the big hits with men on base, and we executed very well."

The Tigers missed a golden opportunity in the top of the first to get to Seth Blair. Chris Epps singled to lead off the inning, stole second and went to third on a throwing error with nobody out. One out later, Jeff Schaus and Kyle Parker walked to load the bases, but Brad Miller hit a screaming liner to short that was speared on a line by the fielder, who stepped on second to double off Schaus and end the inning.

Harmon blanked the Sun Devils in the bottom of the inning, and the Tigers once again worked on Blair?s pitch count in the top of the next inning. Richie Shaffer lined a single into left with one out, and Wilson Boyd followed that with a walk. A balk put both runners in scoring position for Spencer Kieboom, who hit a grounder to short that the shortstop failed to field cleanly and get off a good throw.

The play was ruled a hit for Kieboom and scored Shaffer with the first run. Chris Epps hit a sharp grounder to first that ASU tried to turn into a double play, but the throw back to first went wide and allowed Boyd to score the second run of the inning and Clemson led 2-0.

ASU used a double, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly to score their first run in the bottom of the third, cutting the Clemson lead in half to 2-1. Harman kept the Sun Devils in check in the fourth, however, and the Tigers were able to chase Blair in the top of the fifth. Schaus walked to load the inning, and Parker followed that with a soft single to center field. Miller lined out to left, but Hinson got the run home with a sharp single past the first baseman into right, giving Clemson a 3-1 lead and putting runners at the corners with one out.

The Sun Devils removed Blair at that point, after 110 pitches, and brought in righty Brady Rodgers, who got Shaffer to pop up to left, but left fielder Drew Maggi lost the ball in the sun, allowing Parker to score and moving the runners up a base. Boyd promptly lined a single through the middle that scored Hinson and Clemson led 5-1.

Blair has been 12-0 until Monday, but struggled through his outing against the Tigers, walking five and giving up seven hits among his 24 batters faced in picking up his first loss.

Epps led off the sixth with a single, moved to second on a balk and scored on a single by Schaus through the middle that gave the Tigers a 6-1 lead, but ASU got the run back in the bottom of the inning. With two outs, Harman walked two consecutive batters and gave up an RBI single to Riccio Torrez, and the Tigers led 6-2 at the end of six innings.

Harman finally ran out of gas in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases with nobody out on two sharp singles and a walk and he was replaced by Alex Frederick. Frederick induced a shallow fly ball to center for the first out, and then gave up an RBI grounder for the second out, but escaped further damage when he got Zack MacPhee on a swinging strikeout, on a nasty cutter than ran in on the batter, to end the inning, and Clemson led 6-3 at the end of seven innings.

Frederick said his mindset coming into the game with the bases loaded was just to stay aggressive.
"When I go on a mound I always have the same mindset, no matter what the situation," Frederick said. "It's go out, throw strikes. The atmosphere always changes. But as a pitcher, you really can't change. You've got to go out, pitch within yourself, and know that our defense is always behind us, and be aggressive with everything."

Harman (8-3) was the winning pitcher for the Tigers after allowing three runs on seven hits while striking out five, while Frederick pitched the final three innings to record his third save, allowing one hit while striking out two batters.

Harman said afterward that it was an unusual game for him, simply because his slider was off and his fastball was his main pitch.

"I was really pounding it with the fastball," Harman said. "Kind of this game more than any game I pitched this season, I kind of worked off the fastball. And kind of both sides of the plate, keeping them off balance. I was working in my slider a little bit. And the balls they hit hard were mostly on off-speed pitches.

"So kind of made the adjustment and started pounding it with fastballs. And as to the defense, we've got a great defense behind me. I have all the confidence to throw a pitch at any time, not really be trying to be strike a guy out, but just knowing the defense has my back. And we've got a lot of great players out there. No doubt in my mind they're going to make a play behind me. "

Arizona St. head coach Tim Esmay gave credit to the Tigers, but also said his team?s miscues hurt.

"I just thought that Clemson played a good ball game," Esmay said. "They took advantage of some stuff early. Obviously they won the battle of the freebies today. We just gave away a lot of freebies. Obviously Seth wasn't on it, and we had some big ABs late. We just I thought the seventh inning was a big key for us, get bases loaded with nobody out and come away with just one. It was a tough row to hoe."

Clemson 6 (44-23)

Player                    AB  R  H RBI BB SO PO  A LOB
Chris Epps dh............  5  1  2  0   0  2  0  0   0
Mike Freeman 2b..........  5  0  2  0   0  1  4  4   0
Jeff Schaus lf...........  2  1  1  1   3  0  1  0   0
Kyle Parker rf...........  4  1  1  0   1  1  2  0   4
Brad Miller ss...........  5  0  1  0   0  1  1  2   3
John Hinson 3b...........  5  1  2  1   0  2  1  0   0
 Jason Stolz 3b..........  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
Richie Shaffer 1b........  5  1  2  1   0  0  7  1   0
Wilson Boyd cf...........  3  1  2  1   1  0  2  0   1
 Addison Johnson cf......  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
Spencer Kieboom c........  4  0  1  1   0  0  7  0   2
Casey Harman p...........  0  0  0  0   0  0  1  2   0
 Alex Frederick p........  0  0  0  0   0  0  1  0   0
Totals................... 38  6 14  5   5  7 27  9  10

Arizona State 3 (52-9)

Player                    AB  R  H RBI BB SO PO  A LOB
Drew Maggi lf............  5  0  0  1   0  1  2  0   1
Zack MacPhee 2b..........  3  1  1  0   1  1  2  3   2
Kole Calhoun rf..........  3  0  0  0   1  1  2  0   0
Riccio Torrez 1b.........  3  0  1  1   1  0  9  2   0
Zach Wilson dh...........  4  0  1  0   0  3  0  0   2
Johnny Ruettiger cf......  4  1  1  0   0  1  1  0   1
Deven Marrero ss.........  4  0  1  0   0  0  4  1   0
Raoul Torrez 3b..........  3  1  1  0   1  0  0  5   1
Austin Barnes c..........  2  0  1  1   0  0  7  0   0
 Matt Newman ph..........  1  0  1  0   0  0  0  0   0
Seth Blair p.............  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
 Brady Rodgers p.........  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
 Jimmy Patterson p.......  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  1   0
 Mitchell Lambson p......  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
Totals................... 32  3  8  3   4  7 27 12   7

Score by Innings                    R  H  E
Clemson............. 020 031 000 -  6 14  1
Arizona State....... 001 001 100 -  3  8  2

E - MILLER(30); MARRERO(10); BARNES(6). DP - Clemson 2; Arizona St. 2. LOB -
Clemson 10; Arizona St. 7. 2B - RA. TORREZ(12). SF - BARNES(3). SB -
EPPS(16); SCHAUS(9). CS - HINSON(5).

Clemson                IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF
Casey Harman........  6.0  7  3  3  3  5 22 26
Alex Frederick......  3.0  1  0  0  1  2 10 11

Arizona State          IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF
Seth Blair..........  4.1  7  5  5  5  4 19 24
Brady Rodgers.......  1.2  4  1  1  0  1  8  8
Jimmy Patterson.....  1.0  2  0  0  0  0  4  4
Mitchell Lambson....  2.0  1  0  0  0  2  7  7

Win - HARMAN (8-3).  Loss - BLAIR (12-1).  Save - FREDERICK (3).
Umpires - HP: Jim Jackson  1B: Kelly Gonzales  2B: Paul Guillie  3B: A.J.
Lostaglio  Start: 10:22 AM   Time: 3:14   Attendance: 14198
HARMAN faced 3 batters in the 7th.

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