June 14, 2010

By John Clayton
Special to NCAA.com

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Most everything clashes with purple and orange, but the Clemson Tigers seem to wear desperation awfully well.

For the second time in as many weeks, Clemson kept its postseason hopes alive. This time, the Tigers pounded Alabama 19-5 in Game 2 of their NCAA Division I Super Regional series at Clemson's Doug Kingsmore Stadium, forcing a third and deciding game Monday at 1 p.m. (EDT).The winner advances to the College World Series.

"We've been in a lot of situations all year where we've had our backs against the wall," said Clemson shortstop Brad Miller. "I guess we just like to battle."

The Tigers needed a similar victory a week earlier to escape the NCAA Regional against Auburn. Clemson won that game and went on to advance to the Super Regionals with another victory over Auburn the next day.

After struggling for key hits against Alabama in Game 1 of the Super Regional, Clemson (42-23) roughed up six Alabama pitchers for 20 hits. All 19 runs of the Tigers' runs were earned and eight came with two outs.

The Tigers, who played as the visiting team, scored six runs in the first inning -- the most in the first inning of a Clemson playoff game since 1959 -- behind run-scoring singles from Kyle Parker, John Hinson and Spencer Kieboom. Clemson also added a pair of runs in the third and exploded for nine more in the sixth.

"(Clemson) was really dialed in offensively," said Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard. "It's one thing to give up six runs in the first, but when you continue to give up runs after that, that's what really hurts."

Eight of Clemson's starting nine collected at least one hit, and six of those starters turned in multi-hit games.

Miller went 4-for-5 for the Tigers, with three singles and a grand slam in the ninth. He drove in four runs and scored three. Clemson left-fielder Jeff Schaus went 4 for 6 with 3 RBI and two runs scored, and second-baseman Mike Freeman went 3 for 7 with an RBI and two runs scored.

Hinson and first-baseman Richie Shaffer hit back-to-back solo home runs in the third inning.

The early lead made the job of Clemson starter Scott Weisman (8-2) easier than it might otherwise have been on a hot, humid evening.

"These guys have been (scoring runs) for me all year," Weisman said. "All I had to do was let the defense work and fill up the strike zone."

Weisman scattered nine hits over six innings, giving up four runs, three of which were earned. Meanwhile, Alabama starter Adam Morgan (7-5) was chased after just 2 1/3 innings of work. He gave up eight runs, walked two and struck out none.

None of the other Crimson Tide relievers fared much better. Only Alabama's sixth and final reliever, Jason Townsend, held Clemson without a run.

Alabama (42-24) got a solo home run from third-baseman Jake Smith -- his fourth homer of the postseason. Second baseman Ross Wilson and designated hitter Brett Booth collected two hits each for the Crimson Tide, and both also scored and drove in a run apiece.

Left-fielder Jon Kelton said he and his Alabama teammates will bounce back from Sunday night's debacle in time for Monday's early start time.

"We won the first game, and we'll be ready to go tomorrow," Kelton said. "That's baseball, and as a player you have to have a very short memory."

The Crimson Tide will send junior ace Nathan Kilcrease (8-2, 2.42 ERA) to the mound Monday. Clemson will start largely untested freshman right-hander Dominic Leone (2-1, 4.89).

"He's won some big ones for us -- not only this year, but last year as well," Gaspard said. "And we play our best baseball behind him."

Clemson coach Jack Leggett is hoping Leone will be tough against Alabama's right-handed hitters and that his team has some hits left in its bats.

"We're excited to be here -- we know what's on the line," Leggett said. "My dream tonight is for us to come out and play the way we're capable of."