Category archive: Oklahoma State Cowboys
"It's kind of been biting at me, not getting the clutch hit," said Parker, who lost his spot in the Tigers' starting lineup in the last two games of the Clemson Regional.
So when Parker came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning in Monday night's championship game against regional 3-seed Oklahoma State, Clemson coach Jack Leggett pulled him down the third-base line.
"I felt good when he came up," Leggett said. "He was confident, and he's clutch. He looked poised when he stepped to the plate. I told him, 'I couldn't pick a better guy to be up right now.' He looked me in the eye, and I could tell he was confident."
After trailing the Pokes in six of the first seven innings -- and by as many as four runs as late as the seventh -- the Tigers were finally in position to go ahead.
Trailing 5-4 with two outs in the eighth, Parker came to the plate with runners at second and third. He had popped out in his only other at-bat of the game -- his latest disappointment in a 17-for-96 slump -- after going in as a pinch-hitter in the seventh.
Parker, who also plays quarterback on Clemson's football team, took a fastball for a strike on the first pitch from OSU closer Randy McCurry. On the next pitch, Parker smashed a single over third base, scoring Ben Paulsen from third and John Nester from second for a 6-5 lead.
Clemson closer Matt Vaughn allowed two baserunners in the ninth before striking out OSU designated hitter Mark Ginther to seal the 6-5 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 6,217.
Clemson improved to 25-2 in NCAA tournament games played at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. The Tigers, who last season missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in 21 years, advanced to play national No. 5 seed Arizona State in the Tempe Super Regional, starting Saturday.
"We battle," Leggett said. "Tonight was a battle, and it was a measure of toughness. I'm proud of the way they came on. I'm really proud of our attitude and how tough we were tonight."
Perhaps no Clemson player was as mentally tough as Parker, who led the team with 12 homers in the regular season but couldn't seem to hit much of anything in the past five weeks.
"It was definitely tough," Parker said. "It kind of put things into perspective. I knew I wasn't performing the way I needed to. But the biggest thing you have to see is it's not about you. It's about this team and this university. Not playing in what was the biggest game of the season so far was really the small picture. Whatever opportunity I got, I knew I had to take advantage of it."
Parker did that in the eighth, and Clemson's season goes on for at least another week.
"It's just hard to keep Kyle Parker out of the lineup because he's such a clutch and competitive athlete," Leggett said.
So is OSU starter Tyler Lyons, who pitched on only two days' rest after throwing 108 pitches in the Cowboys' 10-6 victory over Alabama on Friday.
Lyons was dominant early in the game, retiring the Tigers' first two hitters in each of the first six innings. He took a 5-1 lead into the seventh before giving up designated hitter Chris Epps' two-run homer and left fielder Jeff Schaus' RBI single, a combo that made it 5-4.
Epps, who hit .526 with two homers and six RBIs in five games, was named MVP of the Clemson Regional.
Lyons, a left-handed junior from Lubbock, Texas, allowed eight hits and three earned runs in 7 2/3 innings. He threw 111 pitches, bringing his two-day total to 209 for the weekend.
"We had to have a great performance from our starting pitcher to have a chance," said OSU coach Frank Anderson, who was ejected in the top of the ninth for arguing a call at first base. "On two days' rest, it might be as good of a performance as I've had in a long time. I know Tyler. I trust Tyler. I knew he'd compete. He kind of did exactly what I thought he'd do and gave us a chance."
In the end, though, Parker did exactly what Leggett thought he'd do, too.
"I just had to keep my head in it," Parker said. "If we needed a run, I knew I was going to get an opportunity. It was definitely a good feeling. That's what you dream about growing up, going up there with all those people in the stands counting on you. I'm just so glad it happened."
Parker, who also plays quarterback on Clemson's football team, had lost his place in the starting lineup to sophomore Addison Johnson after being mired in a 14-for-77 slump. Parker came into the game as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning and popped out in his first at-bat.
But with the Tigers trailing the Pokes 5-4 in the eighth, Parker hit OSU closer Randy McCurry's 0-1 pitch over third base to knock in the tying and winning runs.
Clemson closer Matt Vaughn allowed two OSU hitters to reach base in the ninth -- Neil Medchill reached on a single, and shortstop Tom Belza was intentionally walked -- before striking out designated hitter Mark Ginther to end the game.
Clemson, which improved to 25-2 in NCAA regional games played at Doug Kingsmore Stadium, advanced to play national No. 5 seed Arizona State in a super regional in Tempe, Ariz.
With two outs in the seventh, designated hitter Chris Epps hit a two-run homer to left-center to cut Oklahoma State's lead to 5-3. Second baseman Mike Freeman followed with a double over first base, and scored on left fielder Jeff Schaus' single to right. Schaus was thrown out trying to take second on OSU's throw to home.
Pokes center fielder Micheal Dabbs opened the inning with a single to center, and then moved to third when third baseman Matt Sanders threw wildly to first on Tyrone Hambly's sacrifice bunt. With runners at first and third with no outs, left fielder Jeff Schaus lost a pop fly in the lights and dropped the baseball.
Dabbs scored on catcher Kevin David's liner to center to make it 4-1, and then Hambly scored when first baseman Ben Paulsen fielded a grounder and threw wildly to second.
The Tigers finally got to Pokes starter Tyler Lyons, who has been dominant despite pitching on only two days' rest. Lyons, a junior from Lubbock, Texas, retired Clemson's first two hitters in each of the first five innings.
The Tigers got to him with two outs in the fifth when designated hitter Chris Epps doubled to left-center and Freeman followed with a triple.
Tigers coach Jack Leggett briefly argued with third-base umpire Jason Rogers, but TV replays showed Ginther's homer was inside the foul pole.
Clemson avoided falling behind 4-0 when left fielder Jeff Schaus threw out Davis Duren, who was trying to score from second on Micheal Dabbs' single with two outs. Schaus delivered a perfect one-hop throw to catcher John Nester, who tagged Duren before he reached home plate.
With the top-seeded Tigers trailing the Pokes 2-0 in the second inning, Leggett pulled Hinson after facing only seven batters. Hinson, who was making only his second start of the season, retired the side in the first inning at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. But he ran into trouble quickly in the second, after catcher Kevin David led off with a single up the middle. David scored on shortstop Tom Belza's double to left-center, giving the Pokes a 1-0 lead.
Then Hinson walked designated hitter Mark Ginther on four pitches, and Belza scored on second baseman Davis Duren's single to left to make it 2-0.
Lyons was replaced juco transfer Tomas Cruz, who promptly retired the next three hitters to end the threat. Tigers catcher John Nester saved a run when he made a pretty remarkable play. With Belza standing on third with one out, Nester caught a pitch that Cruz threw behind batter Dean Green.
OSU coach Frank Anderson is going with junior left-handed pitcher Tyler Lyons, who earned the victory in the Pokes' 10-6 win over Alabama on Friday. Lyons (7-5, 4.12 ERA) went 5 2/3 innings, allowing 10 hits and six runs.
The Tigers are going with senior Ryan Hinson (2-1, 3.41), who is making only his second start of the season. Hinson has been one of the Tigers' better arms out of the bullpen, with 46 strikeouts in 37 innings. Opponents are hitting only .217 against him.
Here are the starting lineups for the championship game:
Oklahoma State (34-23)
CF Micheal Dabbs
3B Tyrone Hambly
LF Neil Medchill
C Kevin David
SS Tom Belza
DH Mark Ginther
2B Davis Duren
RF Doug Kroll
1B Dean Green
LHP Tyler Lyons
DH Chris Epps
2B Mike Freeman
LF Jeff Schaus
1B Ben Paulsen
RF Wilson Boyd
SS Brad Miller
C John Nester
CF Addison Johnson
3B Jason Stolz
LHP Ryan Hinson
Note that Clemson coach Jack Leggett sat starting right-fielder Kyle Parker for the second straight game. Parker, who led the Tigers with 12 homers during the regular season, is 1-for-9 in the Clemson Regional. Johnson took over in center field, with Boyd moving over to right.
The Tigers' hitters had been mostly quiet in the first two days of the Clemson Regional, producing only eight hits in both Friday night's 5-4 victory over Tennessee Tech and Saturday night's 3-2 loss to Oklahoma State.
AP Photo/Mary Ann ChastainClemson freshman Chris Dwyer struck out a career-high 13 batters in the Tigers' win over Oklahoma State.
But Clemson starters Chris Dwyer and Scott Weismann apparently aren't typical rookies.
Weismann, from Boxborough, Mass., made only his third start of the season and tossed a gem, beating No. 4 seed Tennessee Tech 10-0 in an elimination game at Doug Kingsmore Stadium Sunday afternoon.
Less than an hour later, Dwyer took the mound and came within one out of throwing a complete game in a 15-1 victory over No. 3 seed Oklahoma State.
The Tigers' victory over OSU forced a winner-take-all game between the teams at 7 p.m. ET Monday. The winner will advance to next week's Super Regional against the Arizona State-Oral Roberts winner.
It was the first time in school history that Clemson won two NCAA elimination games at home in the same day. The Tigers are now 24-2 in NCAA tournament games at home since the field expanded in 1999.
"It was important to make a statement," Leggett said. "It's tough to find two freshmen that can pitch like that in a pressure situation in a regional. There's more to come from them, hopefully."
Thanks to its two freshman pitchers, Clemson certainly has momentum heading into Monday.
Weismann, who had pitched out of the bullpen in five of his previous six appearances, allowed only four hits with three walks and two strikeouts in eight innings.
Dwyer, from Swampscott, Mass., was even better in the nightcap, allowing only six hits and one run in 8 2/3 innings. He struck out a career-high 13 hitters and surrendered only OSU third baseman Tyrone Hambly's solo homer in the fourth. Dwyer left the game after loading the bases with two outs in the ninth. He threw 133 pitches, including 91 strikes.
Dwyer earned his first victory since throwing a complete game in a 9-1 win over Miami on April 11.
"That kid's really good," OSU coach Frank Anderson said of Dwyer. "He's got really good stuff. What was this -- their fourth game [in the regional]? He's pretty good for a fourth-game starter."
More than anything else, the performances of the Clemson freshman pitchers helped the Tigers preserve their bullpen. Freshman David Haselden pitched the ninth in the victory over Tennessee Tech. Junior Justin Sarratt pitched to one OSU batter in the ninth. Other than that, the Tigers' relief pitchers rested.
With junior Tyler Blandford struggling through his worst start of the season, allowing five earned runs in only 1 2/3 innings, OSU used four pitchers in the first two innings and six in the game.
Hambly said the Cowboys will be ready to play Monday, even after the bad loss.
"At the moment, we both stand in the same position," Hambly said. "We both have to win tomorrow."
Anderson wasn't ready to name a starting pitcher for Monday night's championship game. Leggett was leaning toward senior Ryan Hinson (2-0, 3.25 ERA).
Leggett probably wishes he had another freshman ready to go.
"You can't take anything from today into tomorrow, except for maybe some confidence," Leggett said. "It's zero-zero tomorrow and you've got to start over."
OSU center fielder Micheal Dabbs led off the eighth with a line drive to left-center. Tigers center fielder Wilson Boyd seemed to have a read on the ball, but he pulled up at the last minute with left fielder Jeff Schaus bearing down on him.
Dabbs ended up with a double and scored on Neil Medchill's hard grounder past first baseman Ben Paulsen to make it 3-2.
Pokes closer Randy McCurry retired the Tigers in order in the ninth to seal the victory.
Clemson falls into the losers' bracket and will play Tennessee Tech at 3 p.m. ET Sunday. The Tigers beat the Golden Eagles 5-4 on Friday night, scoring two runs in the ninth.
The winner of that game will play the Pokes on Sunday night and will have to beat them twice to advance to a super regional.