CLEMSON, SC -- Rarely do Clemson baseball games get a place on the video shelf
next to, say, a copy of the 1989 Clemson-Carolina football game.
Usually they're filed away and forgotten once football season starts around
Clemson fans that tape such things might need to find a place for Saturday
night's 9-4 win by the baseball team over Mississippi State. Games that
leave both teams teary-eyed deserve a place somewhere on the shelf.
"We promised them that we would get them back to Omaha," said Clemson coach
Jack Leggett. "That's a huge burden to have on you every day in
practice…We're going to Omaha." Leggett's voice started cracking.
Clemson earned it's ninth trip to the College World Series with a five-run
win that wasn't secure until the late in the game. In fact, early on there
appeared no reason to expect that Clemson would be celebrating at the end of
For the second-straight night Leggett had to replace his starter in the
second inning. Friday night it was his ace Ryan Mottl. Saturday night it was
Scott Berney, who started the season with seven wins in seven starts. In
nine starts since then he was 2-4 and on Saturday night against MSU he gave
up two runs in the first inning and then gave up a single and a hard hit
ball for an out to the center fielder in the second. With a strong wind
blowing out to left field, Leggett brought in reliever Steve Reba, who
Leggett thought would keep the ball down and in the park. Reba gave up just
one fly ball out and just one run until the seventh. He gave up a lead-off
single to Phillip Willingham and was replaced by Nick Glaser, who entered
the game with an 8-3 lead.
The first batter Glaser faced reached on an error by third baseman Khalil
Greene. After a sacrifice fly moved Wilingham to third, a single by Ty
Martin drove him home. Glaser struck out the next batter for the second out,
but walked Daron Wright to load the bases. That's when Mississippi State
coach Pat McMahon will need to shut off his VCR. Down 8-4 MSU catcher Ryan
McGrath entered the batters box and watched the count go to 3-0.
"It's always tough to come back 3-0, especially with the bases loaded," said
Reba. "That's got to be one of the toughest things in all of sports."
Glaser threw two strikes to run the count full. McGrath then fouled two
balls into the stands packed with a stadium-record crowd.
"What a great battle," said McMahon, his eyes red. "What a great battle…It
was a great battle, wasn't it, gosh dog."
Glaser threw a fastball on the next pitch and McGrath hit it directly back
at Glaser's head. Glaser threw his glove up and caught the ball.
"I don't know if I've hit a ball any harder," said McGrath. "I'd gladly take
a seeing-eye ground ball in the hole right now. It was just a fast ball. I
was trying to use my hands."
The play took everything out of Mississippi State. The Bulldogs managed just
one single in the final two innings.
"Baseball is a game on inches," said Leggett. "I can remember so many times
during the year when a ball just went foul. Sometimes it goes for you.
Sometimes it doesn't go for you."
To help his team keep going he'll look to the video cabinet. "One thing I'll
tell our team when they go to Omaha is that it's like the movie Hoosiers,"
he said. "It's 90 feet between the bases and 60 feet six inches from the
mound to the plate. If we can keep playing like we have been at Doug
Kingsmore stadium, with that confidence, then we can beat anybody in the