It was a good effort. After a lackluster season the Clemson Tigers seemed to have put everything together and started winning. They played well in the ACC tournament, and breezed through regional play undefeated. On paper, Mississippi State didn’t even look like an obstacle, Clemson had routinely dominated them in past postseason match ups, and were ranked 12 spots higher in national polls. The Mississippi State Bulldogs proved too much for the Tigers this year and defeated them in two games to be the first team with a trip to Omaha guaranteed.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, and two runners on base, power hitter Andy D’Alessio stepped up to the plate, seemingly eager to tie the game with one power stroke. He gave it his best shot, a towering fly ball that reached the center field warning track, but unfortunately it didn’t have enough to get out of the park. With two outs, shortstop Taylor Harbin seemed to be our last hope, he has home run power and has been consistent all year, but today was not his day. Harbin struck out swinging on three pitches to end the inning and the game, leaving the Tigers out of Omaha this year.
In a game where the Tigers actually out hit the Bulldogs 11 hits to 12, strong pitching beat out strong hitting. The Tigers started off the game on the right foot behind the pitching of Junior right hander David Kopp, who gave up a run on one hit in the top of the first. The Tigers answered quickly, scoring two and securing their only lead of the ballgame. The Bulldogs weren’t down long, chasing Kopp from the game after scoring 4 runs in the top of the second, and securing a lead they would hold for the remainder of the ballgame.
Sophomore Lefty Ryan Hinson took over for Kopp and ended the inning, pitching the next two absolutely scoreless until running in to some trouble when he allowed a leadoff double to right fielder Mitch Moreland, who advanced to third on a sacrifice fly on the next play. After walking the third batter, Red shirt Junior P.J. Zocchi came into the game to pitch for Hinson. Zocchi didn’t fare much better, allowing the Bulldogs to break the game open and score two more runs, extending their lead to 7-4.
The Tigers attempted to tie the game in the third with a leadoff homer by catcher Doug Hogan, who finished the day 3 for 4 with 2 RBI. But the two runs they scored were quickly erased by Zocchi’s struggles in the top of the next inning. The Tigers threatened again in the bottom of the sixth when they scored one after a triple from left fielder Addison Johnson and a groundout by second baseman J.D. Burgess. Unfortunately other than the ray of hope seen in the ninth, the Tigers never again threatened the Bulldog lead. In fact, they got that one run back, securing their 3 run lead in the top of the ninth.
Bulldog starter Justin Pigott earned the win, giving up four runs and eight hits over six innings. Reliever Mitch Moreland, who played most of the game in right field and added two hits and an RBI for the Bulldogs, pitched the scoreless ninth for his second save of the year. Kopp took the loss for the Tigers, falling to 6-3 on the year.
The game was played in front of 13,715 screaming fans in Starkville today, which is an NCAA Super Regional tournament record. Clemson is known for it’s traveling fan base which probably helped significantly with that number, though there was little orange to be seen in the stands.
In other record news, the Tigers had eleven players selected in the MLB Amateur draft that has been going on in the last few days, here’s a look at who went and where:
Daniel Moskos (P) 1st round 4th pick ( 4th overall ) by the Pittsburgh Pirates
David Kopp (P) 2nd Round (71st overall) by the St. Louis Cardinals
Brad Chalk (CF) 2nd Round ( 87th overall) by the San Diego Padres
Alan Farina (P) 3rd Round (115th overall) by the Toronto Blue Jays
Stephen Clyne (P) 3rd round (123rd overall) by the New York Mets
Marquez Smith (3b) 8th round (247th overall) by the Chicago Cubs
Taylor Harbin (SS) 8th round (253rd overall) by the Arizona Diamondbacks
Doug Hogan (C) 16th round (497th overall) by the Cleveland Indians
Andy D’Alessio (1b) 19th round (584th overall) by the San Francisco Giants
P. J. Zocchi (P) 36th round (1092th overall) by the Cleveland Indians
Stan Widmann ( ss) 39th round (1187th overall) by the Oakland Athletics
While the results of today’s game are disappointing, we can always look forward to next season, and perhaps another trip to Omaha in the future. In other action, South Carolina plays for their postseason lives today in game two against UNC at 7:00 pm EST.