Joey Bielek’s two-run homer in the seventh inning gave second-seeded Arizona State the lead for good in its 7-4 win against Clemson in the opening game of the Fullerton Regional at Goodwin Field on Friday afternoon.
With two outs in the top of the fifth inning, Andrew Cox slapped a two-out, two-run single to give Clemson a 2-0 lead. Trever Allen responded with a long solo homer in the bottom of the fifth inning, then Bielek lined a two-run homer in the seventh inning. Brian Serven hit the next pitch over the fence for another long ball in the seventh inning. The Sun Devils added three insurance runs in the eighth inning.
Arizona State’s Ryan Kellogg (9-2) allowed six hits, two runs and four walks with six strikeouts in seven innings pitched. Ryan Burr recorded the final out to register his 14th save of the year. Tigers starter Matthew Crownover (10-3) yielded five hits, four runs and one walk with a career-high-tying nine strikeouts in seven innings pitched.
“Like the way we played. Matthew battled for us. He always does,” Clemson coach Jack Leggett told reporters postgame. “We just lost a little bit of control in the seventh-eighth innings. They did a good job of putting on some swings when they had to. Up until that point, I thought we were really in control of the game. You got to give them credit. They did a great job of what they had to do late in the ballgame.
“Our team showed the same kind of battle and toughness we have all year to try to figure out to get ourselves back in the hunt at the end. We just let the distance get a little too far.”
Crownover allowed six Sun Devils to reach base, but four scored on the Sun Devils’ three home runs. Crownover had surrendered four home runs all season going into the NCAA Tournament. It was the second start of the season where he gave up more than three earned runs.
“I had two bad pitches all game and they made me pay for it,” Crownover said. “That’s what good teams do ... just give them a lot of credit. They made some adjustments and when I made a mistake they took advantage of it. I made a lot of good pitches today, but had two bad ones in bad counts and they took advantage of it. Give them credit – they’re a good team.”
The Tigers (32-28) will face No. 4 seed Pepperdine (30-28) at 7 p.m. Saturday. The Sun Devils (35-21) moved into the winners’ bracket against No. 1 seed Cal State Fullerton (35-22).