Tigers One Win Away From Omaha


by - Correspondent -
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WACO, Texas - Sometimes baseball is a game decided by which team makes the most of its opportunities. Then there are days such as Saturday, when the team which missed the least number of chances ultimately came out on top.


Clemson pitchers wiggled out of a pair of major jams Saturday, while Tiger hitters did just enough with the bats to generate a 4-2 victory over Baylor in the opening game of the NCAA Super Regionals in Waco, Texas. The game was played before an announced crowd of 4,383 at Baylor Ballpark, the largest crowd of the season for the Bears (42-22) and ninth-largest in school history.


The win puts Clemson (43-21) in the driver's seat for the automatic berth in next week's College World Series. Jack Leggett's team needs but one win in the next two days to secure the berth, while Baylor would have to win two straight in order to advance.


Game Two of this best-of-three series is scheduled for 4 p.m. (Eastern) Sunday.


"I'm proud of our kids for battling through three or four really tough situations today," Leggett said. "They're a tough, young team, and we were fortunate enough to get the win today."



The triumph didn't come without its moments of angst.


Tiger pitchers Stephen Faris and Jeff Hahn seemed to be flirting with disaster all afternoon. But Baylor couldn't come up with a knockout punch, going just 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position and stranding a total of 14 runners.


The most glaring failure by the Bears offense came late in the game. Leading 3-2 in the seventh inning, Clemson reliever Jeff Hahn (4-1) loaded the bases with nobody out by giving up a single to Josh Ford and walking Zach Dillon and Reid Brees back-to-back.


Kevin Sevigny lined out to second baseman Taylor Harbin for the first out, setting up what may have been the critical play in the game. Seth Fortenberry hit a little tapper up the first base line that Hahn sprinted over to field. He whirled and made an off-balance throw home - making slight contact with an onrushing Fortenberry in the process - to force Ford at the plate.


"You hear people around you yelling (throw it home), but I really can't explain it," Hahn said later. "It's kind of a rhythm play. I knew if I got to it fast enough I had a chance."


Hahn ended the threat by striking out Jeff Mandel.


Clemson added an insurance run in the top of the eighth inning when Harbin tripled and later scored on an error. Hahn was replaced in the bottom of the inning by Robert Rohrbaugh with runners on first and second and two outs. Rohrbaugh ended the threat with just one pitch, inducing Dillon to ground out to first baseman Andy D'Alessio.


Rohrbaugh, who would be the starter if this series goes to a third game, said Saturday's 1 1/3 innings of work won't hamper him if a final game is necessary.


"No way," he said. "I'll be ready to pitch."


Clemson finally turned around a 2-1 deficit in the top of the seventh inning after Leggett pulled the team together in the dugout and reminded them there remained a full third of the game to be played.


And the Tigers responded with one of their head coach's favorite tactics - small ball.


Kris Harvey opened the inning against Baylor starter and eventual loser Trey Taylor (7-6) by beating out a slow roller to third base for an infield single. Travis Storrer then placed a perfect push bunt on a line past Taylor out toward second base for a base hit. D'Alessio followed with a sacrifice bunt attempt that saw Dillon, the Baylor catcher, throw to third base too late in an attempt to get Harvey.


With the bases loaded and nobody out, Taylor threw ball one to Widmann, then was replaced by head coach Steve Smith with relief ace Abe Woody.


Widmann, who grew up barely and hour from Waco and chose Clemson over Baylor last year, swung at Woody's first pitch and lined it into right field for a two-run single, making the score 3-2. It was Widmann's first hit this season with the bases loaded - he previously was 0-for-6 - and provided him with a bit of a Kodak moment in his home state.


"It was definitely good to be back in front of some people I know in the crowd," he said. "It kind of takes the pressure off. I was going to swing at the first strike I saw in that situation, and it found a hole and got through."


Baylor's failure in the seventh inning was just the capper to a tough afternoon at the plate.


The Bears loaded the bases with no one out in the third inning against Clemson starter Stephen Faris, but Faris induced Drees to pop out foul to first base, got Sevigny on a fly ball to center too shallow to score the runner from third, then ended the inning by striking out Fortenberry.


An inning later, after a safety squeeze bunt by Kevin Russo drove in the Bears' second run and left runners on first and second with just one out, Faris retired Ford on a fly ball to center and Dillon on a foul pop to the catcher.


"A couple of those balls go one way or the other and it could have been a different game," Smith said. "But give their pitcher's credit. They responded well. When we had guys on base I thought they made better pitches."


Faris allowed just a single in the fifth inning and was lifted after allowing a two-out base hit to Russo in the sixth. Faris threw 109 pitches on the 87-degree afternoon, 72 for strikes.


He trailed 2-1 at the time, but had kept his team in the game despite struggling at times with his command.


"He had to figure out the strike zone early on," Leggett said. "But once he did that he loosened up and threw the ball better. He pitched out of some tough jams, and that was key for us."


Clemson's early opportunities weren't as plentiful as that of Baylor, but the Tigers did miss a pair of chances against Taylor.


Herman Demmink walked and reached second base by the time there were two outs in the first inning. But Tyler Colvin flew out to left field to end the inning.


In the fifth, Andy D'Alessio doubled off the wall in left-center with one out. But he, too, was left stranded when Widmann struck out and Adrian Casanova was robbed on a nice diving stab of his ground ball by third-baseman Russo.


Baylor's first run scored in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI groundout by Ford. Clemson tied the game in the third when Widmann, who had led off the inning with a single, scored on a Taylor wild pitch.


Taylor, who threw only 74 pitches in six full innings, seemed unfazed by his team's predicament.


"There's nothing to worry about," he said. "We've got nothing to lose. If we pitch and play defense, we'll still come out on top."


Clemson 4 (43-21)

Player                    AB  R  H RBI BB SO PO  A LOB
------------------------------------------------------
Herman Demmink 3b........  4  0  1  0   1  3  0  1   0
Brad Chalk cf............  4  0  1  0   1  0  4  0   3
Taylor Harbin 2b.........  3  1  1  0   0  0  3  1   0
Tyler Colvin lf..........  4  0  0  0   0  1  0  0   2
Kris Harvey dh...........  4  1  1  0   0  1  0  0   0
Travis Storrer rf........  4  1  1  0   0  2  3  0   0
Andy D'Alessio 1b........  3  0  1  0   0  0 10  0   1
Stan Widmann ss..........  4  1  2  2   0  2  0  5   0
Adrian Casanova c........  3  0  0  0   0  0  7  1   1
Stephen Faris p..........  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  1   0
 Jeff Hahn p.............  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  1   0
 Robert Rohrbaugh p......  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
Totals................... 33  4  8  2   2  9 27 10   7

Baylor 2 (42-22)

Player                    AB  R  H RBI BB SO PO  A LOB
------------------------------------------------------
Michael Griffin 2b.......  5  1  3  0   0  0  1  1   1
Kevin Russo 3b...........  4  0  3  1   0  0  0  3   0
Josh Ford dh.............  4  0  2  1   1  0  0  0   0
 Chase Gerdes pr/dh......  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
Zach Dillon c............  3  0  1  0   2  0 10  1   4
Reid Brees lf............  3  0  0  0   2  1  1  0   0
Kevin Sevigny cf.........  5  0  1  0   0  0  5  0   2
Seth Fortenberry rf......  4  0  0  0   0  1  1  0   3
 Mike Pankratz ph........  1  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
Jeff Mandel 1b...........  4  0  0  0   0  3  8  0   4
Paul Witt ss.............  4  1  2  0   0  0  1  1   0
Trey Taylor p............  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  1   0
 Abe Woody p.............  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  2   0
 Tyler Bullock p.........  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
Totals................... 37  2 12  2   5  5 27  9  14

Score by Innings                    R  H  E
-------------------------------------------
Clemson............. 001 000 210 -  4  8  1
Baylor.............. 100 100 000 -  2 12  1
-------------------------------------------

E - D'ALESSIO(8); GRIFFIN(12). LOB - Clemson 7; Baylor 14. 
2B - D'ALESSIO(14); GRIFFIN 2(15); FORD(18). 3B - HARBIN(4). 
SH - HARBIN(8); D'ALESSIO(3); CASANOVA(12); RUSSO(10). 
SB - FORD(7); DILLON(2). CS - RUSSO(6).

Clemson                IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF
-----------------------------------------------
Stephen Faris.......  5.2 10  2  2  2  4 26 29
Jeff Hahn...........  2.0  2  0  0  3  1  7 10
Robert Rohrbaugh....  1.1  0  0  0  0  0  4  4

Baylor                 IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF
-----------------------------------------------
Trey Taylor.........  6.0  5  3  3  2  6 21 25
Abe Woody...........  2.0  2  1  0  0  2  8  9
Tyler Bullock.......  1.0  1  0  0  0  1  4  4

Win - HAHN (4-1).  Loss - TAYLOR (7-6).  Save - ROHRBAUGH (1).
WP - FARIS(4); TAYLOR 2(11).
Umpires - HP: Mike Conlin  1B: Mark Ditsworth  
2B: Joe Burleson  3B: Al Davis
Start: 11:08 AM   Time: 3:02   Attendance: 4383
TAYLOR faced 3 batters in the 7th.

Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger and TigerNet. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.

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