Tigers persevere again, will host Super Regional

Facing elimination, Clemson responds with a big win to advance to face Alabama

06/07/2010 10:33 PM

06/08/2010 12:06 AM

AUBURN, Ala. | Clemson again found itself in a precarious situation Monday.

Except it was the type in which the Tigers have thrived.

Clemson came from the losers’ bracket last season to win the Clemson Regional.

The Tigers needed three consecutive wins against Florida State last month to secure the Atlantic Division title, and Clemson responded by sweeping the Seminoles.

And less than 24 hours after a dramatic ninth-inning home run by Creede Simpson on Sunday forced Monday’s title game, the Tigers faced elimination in an SEC park with 4,096 in attendance and thousands more lining three decks of a neighboring parking garage and overflowing to a hill beyond center field.

Clemson again responded with resolve and focus: a 13-7 victory again No. 1 seed Auburn to clinch a regional title.

Clemson will face Alabama in a Super Regional next weekend. The winner of the best-of-three series will advance to the College World Series.

A day after the embattled Clemson bullpen lost a ninth-inning lead, Alex Frederick and Kevin Brady saved the day against a powerful Auburn offense.

Frederick struck out five, allowed one run in three innings and shut out Auburn in the eighth and ninth innings.

Freshman Richie Shaffer — perhaps the face of the franchise after Kyle Parker turns pro as expected after being selected 26th overall by Colorado on Monday — ripped a three-run double down the left-field line in the seventh off Auburn No. 1 starter Cory Luckie, pitching in relief, to give Clemson an 11-6 lead.

A day after a bullpen implosion, it was a welcome cushion.

And on Monday it was the bullpen that bailed out a pair of Clemson freshman pitchers.

Having exhausted his top three starters to advance to Monday’s regional title game, Jack Leggett placed his trust in two freshman pitchers to begin the do-or-die affair.

Scott Firth got the start for Clemson, entering with a 2-1 record and 3.16 ERA, but most of his work had come in midweek games against non-BCS conference foes.

Firth’s only extended work against a power-conference opponent came against Virginia Tech at the ACC tournament, when he allowed two runs in four innings.

Firth had the benefit of six quick Clemson runs, three coming via a first-inning, three-run Parker homer, to take a 6-0 lead into the bottom of the second.

Firth worked a scoreless first but ran into trouble in the second, and Leggett quickly inserted another freshman, Dominic Leone, who allowed one more run to cross, cutting the Clemson lead to 6-3.

Leone briefly had been handed the third spot in the weekend rotation this season but struggled in four consecutive starts against ACC opponents, losing his spot to Will Lamb.

Leone was hit hard, allowing two runs in the third to cut the Clemson lead to 7-5, and was replaced by Frederick.

After a brilliant series against Florida State, Frederick had a tough ACC tournament.

But he kept the Tigers off-balance for the better part of four innings using a crisp fastball and sharp-breaking pitch.

And Brady, the anointed closer of the future, became the closer of the present.

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