on May 31, 2009 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Tigers can’t get it done

Ben Paulsen was in the right place. He had the play cornered, but a bad bounce changed the whole course of the game, and in the end, it cost Clemson a 3-2 setback in the fourth game of the NCAA Clemson Regional on Saturday night.

Ned Medchill’s hit in the bottom of the eighth inning for Oklahoma State took a bad hop as Paulsen went over to field the ball, but then it bounced off the bottom of his glove and rolled into right field. The sequence of events, which came with two outs, allowed Michael Dabbs to come all the way from second to ultimately give the Cowboys the victory in front of 5,740 fans at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

“It’s like one of those plays at practice that you feel like you can get every time, but it just hit off the heel of my glove and bounced into the outfield and I guess it was hit just hard enough and off my glove to allow that runner to score from second,” Paulsen said.

It allowed the Tigers (41-20) to lose for the first time since 2002 at a home regional or super regional. Clemson had won 11 straight prior to Saturday night and are now 22-2 all-time at Doug Kingsmore in the current regional-super regional format.

“This was a tough loss for us,” Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. “Casey (Harman) pitched a heck of a ballgame and their guy (Andrew Oliver) did a nice job pitching and we just seemed as if we couldn’t catch up with his fastball there and we left some men on base.”

The Tigers had a chance in the top of the eighth inning to break the game open or take the lead after Mike Freeman tied it with an RBI single to right field with one out. With the go-ahead run just 90 feet away, Clemson was unable to bring it home as Jeff Schaus — Friday’s hero — struck out and after intentionally walking Paulsen, relief pitcher Randy McCurry got Kyle Parker to pop up to first base to end the inning.

“We just couldn’t find the big hit when we had men on base and I think that is the biggest issue right now,” Leggett said. “We have to be a little bit more productive.”

Clemson’s inability to move runners over came back to hurt it in Oklahoma State’s bottom half of the eighth. With one out, Dabbs hit what looked like a routine fly ball to left centerfield, but the ball hung up in the air and Schaus in left and centerfielder Wilson Boyd miscommunicated on the play and the ball fell in between them.

Dabbs was rewarded a double on the play and scored Medchill’s hit off Paulsen’s glove.

“I don’t know if (Boyd) saw Jeff coming out of the corner of his eye or what happened, but it’s unfortunate because if we can make that play we would be in better shape,” Leggett said.

Clemson was in good shape and got another solid outing from starter Harman. A week after going seven innings and striking out 10 North Carolina batters, he recorded eight strikeouts in 6.1 innings of work against Oklahoma State.

Through the first six innings, the lefty allowed just one hit and two walks and kept the Cowboys (34-22) guessing until Tom Belza — the Cowboys’ hero on Friday — hit his fourth home run of the regional by barely clearly the top of the foul pole in right field in the bottom of the seventh inning.

“I’m not really sure what is going on,” said Belza, who entered the tournament with just two home runs in the first 54 games of the season. “I’m just up there hitting it, and I was down 1-2, same deal as yesterday. I wasn’t looking for anything.

“I got a (slider) and I just got the barrel to it. I thought it was going foul, but it straightened out a lot. I don’t know what happened to it, but it stayed fair so I was pretty happy.”

Mark Ginther then followed with a home run of his own a few pitches later for a 2-0 Oklahoma State lead.

Clemson tied the game in the top of the eighth after Brad Miller had a one-out hit and Nester got a pinch-hit up the middle to set up Chris Epps’ RBI knock to right to score Miller. Freeman then tied the game at 2-2 with a base hit to right field to score Nester.

“We had a golden opportunity with runners on second and third and we could not finish it off so now our goal tomorrow is focused on that game at three o’clock,” Leggett said.

The Tigers will now have to win the 3 p.m. game against Tennessee Tech, who eliminated No. 2 seed Alabama, today and then beat the Cowboys in the nightcap to force a championship game on Monday.

Clemson will start freshman lefty Chris Dwyer (4-5, 5.30 ERA). Tennessee Tech will start left-hand pitcher Chason Choate (4-1, 4.06 ERA).