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Have there been many better baseball weekends in Clemson? Doug Kingsmore Stadium was rocking and the 11,234 people there saw two teams battling their hearts out. There is so few times in life where you witness a baseball team battle every pitch of every at-bat of every inning of every game of the season. However, the 2006 Clemson Tigers have done just that.
I often talk about memories of great Clemson sporting events of the past but this past weekend goes right there among the best in my memories.
How I will ever forget:
* D.J. Mitchell’s clutch hitting with three hits and four RBIs on Friday
*Herman Demmink’s lead off home run and the fastest rounding of the bases on a home run I have ever seen.
*Jason Berken’s collision at first base.
*P.J. Zocchi coming in and getting it done by giving up only one run in five innings.
*David Kopp’s key double play ball.
*Brad Chalk beating out a key bunt in the ninth.
*And finally Tyler Colvin’s walk-off grand slam.
Game Two gave us:
*Another Sean Clark masterpiece with six strikeouts in 3.2 innings.
*Kopp’s double play ball for the second straight night and strong performance.
*Taylor Harbin’s three-run blast that got the Tigers back into the game.
*The incredible eighth inning where Demmink did his job with a lead off single. Colvin hustled his way into an infield hit before Harbin’s key hit and D’Alessio drawing a big walk. Does it get any bigger than Stan Wideman battling for the two-strike single?
What a weekend! It was a weekend that gave us Omaha stickers and champagne celebrations with the “Cheap Seats” bus. Pure emotion that was so well deserved. Vince Lomardi talked about the finest feeling is lying on the field knowing you gave everything you had and you are laying there victorious. Lying on the field is great but give me a fence climb and champagne spraying from the Cheap Seats bus instead.
We had people tailgating many hours before and after the games. We had people scaling tickets at a college baseball game.
It was a weekend that gave us something we should, never forget and that is passion. It is rare to see the infectious passion that starts with a coach and resonates through his team and into the stands. Clemson fans are crazy about baseball and Clemson baseball is crazy about its fans.
I believe that mental toughness is a huge part of baseball but especially this time of the season. Clemson has won seven in a row and during that span the Tigers have shown the ultimate in toughness. The Tigers have scored in 14 of the 18 at-bats they have had after the opponent scored in the previous half of the inning. I believe that is a sign of a great team and a tough group.
The Tigers have been tested in each of their last three games. Here is a look at how they responded:
Against Mississippi State in the final game of the regionals, the Bulldogs scored in four innings and Clemson answered each time.
In game one of the super regional, Oral Roberts scored one in the top of the first and the Tigers answered with one in the bottom of the first. Oral Roberts added three in the top of the second and Clemson answered with one in the bottom of the second. The Golden Eagles added one in the top of the sixth so the Tigers answered with a pair in the bottom of the sixth. The biggest story of Game 1 where Oral Roberts put a three spot in the top of the ninth-Clemson answered with four runs and the game-winner. Game one, ORU scored in four innings and Clemson answered in the bottom half of every inning.
In game two of super regional, Oral Roberts scored two and the first and one in the second with out the Tigers answering in their next at-bat but Clemson did answer when ORU scored one in the bottom of the third with Taylor Harbin’s three-run shot in their next at-bat. When the Golden Eagles scored their last run in the bottom of the seventh the Tigers answered with their three big runs including Wideman’s game-winner.
The Hot Play Continues
Clemson has won 24 of their last 25 games with the only loss coming in an 8-7 extra inning affair against Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament. Some of those 24 wins were easy and some of the big names got it done when they had to. But you can’t win that many games without total team efforts. Ben Hall, D.J. Mitchell and Sean Clark have answered their call when their time came. With the exception of a few contest, the defense has been very good. The base running has been aggressive and successful. Walk-off grand slams are nice but give me the little things that happen during a game and I will take the guts and toughness of this team.
Let us not forget that the Tigers continue to play a very difficult schedule. Oral Roberts was a much better baseball team that I thought. I give my compliments to their coaching staff and their program for a classy performance. I thought their catcher (Andy Bouchie) and shortstop (Tim Torres) were special.
ACC Atlantic Division Champions. ACC Regular Season Champions. ACC Tournament Champions. NCAA Regional Champions. NCAA Super-regional Champions.
There is only one negative to this hot streak. How am I getting to Omaha?
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