The Clemson Tigers beat Alabama 8-6 on Monday to punch their ticket to Omaha. Clemson advances to the College World Series in Omaha for the first time since 2006. They join Florida State from the ACC. South Carolina also plays in Omaha. With their wins this weekend, and wins over Auburn in regional play, Clemson ousted the state of Alabama from CWS play. No small feat!!
Here’s a breakdown of what happened in this CWS clincher:
The Tigers lost the coin toss and therefore were officially the “visiting team”, although home-crowd advantage was clearly still theirs. Kilcrease (Peanut), the MVP of the Regionals for Bama was the starting pitcher. The Tigers were looking to follow up a 20 hit night with more explosive offense. Epps, the DH, led off with a single, but was quickly picked off on an attempt to steal second. No six-run first for the Tigers. In fact no runs at all until the bottom of the first. Alabama Center-Fielder Dugas reached on error, advanced to third on two wild pitches by Leone. A bloop single to right by Wilson scores Dugas. 1-0 Alabama.
Let the offensive action begin: in the second inning, Parker has a lead-off single and then scores on a homer by Hinson. Boyd doubles to right center. Dugas robs Kieboom of a hit and Clemson of a run. The Tigers take the lead though. 2-1 Alabama tries to retaliate, as Andrew Miller singles to left field. A beautiful 5-4-3 double-play ends the inning. Leone settled down, thankfully!
The hot bats continued to show in the third. Epps hit a lead-off single to right. Freeman singled up the middle. With one out, Parker flies out to right, but both runners advance. Brad Miller doubles up the middle to score two (his 6th and 7th RBI in the Super Regional). Clemson leads 4-1.
Shaffer homered to right center to start the fourth. 5-1 Tigers A rare Bama error allows a runner on base. After Kieboom grounded into a double-play, Epps walked and promptly stole second. A great attempt by Wilson at second, a diving catch and good throw, but Freeman just beat out the throw to be safe at first. Schaus doubled to right, scoring Epps. 6-1
Jonathan Smart called in to pitch for Alabama at the top of the 6th, facing the top of the order. Epps flied out to right, retired for the first time today. Freeman reached on a grounder to second, and the second time Bama’s first baseman couldn’t come up with the ball. But, no damage by thte Tigers this time.
Leone hit Bennett, ending a streak of 10 retired batters, followed up by a hard single up the middle. Alabama was looking to close in on the Tigers. A nice sliding catch by Schaus kept the Tide at bay. Though after walking Jones, loading the bases for Jake Smith (paging Mr. Homer), Leone is pulled. A good outing for him…til now. Frederick came in for the Tigers and was able to force a pop-out from Smith to end the inning with no damage done.
Shaffer added another long-ball in the 7th, driving in two more runs, giving Clemson a comfortable seven run lead. Uneventful play until the final half of the final inning made it look as though Clemson was going to roll smoothly into the Omaha brackets.
However, as Clemson sports teams often do, today’s team tested fans’ patience and drew many a gasp in the bottom of the ninth. Outs one and two – smooth sailing. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Alabama began a rally to excite every fan in Doug Kingsmore stadium. Five runs later, with bases loaded, and Jake Smith to the plate, Will Lamb came in and gracefully allowed Smith to pop out to left center field, with Schaus making the winning catch. It was high-drama until the very last, long overdue out.
Congratulations to Clemson! Good luck to them in Omaha!