Auburn Strings Up Clemson To Win Series Opener

Auburn, Ala.–-Phillip Stringer's bases loaded single in the bottom of the ninth inning capped a three-run rally for the Auburn Tigers as they defeated the Clemson Tigers 6-5 Friday night at Plainsman Park to win the series opener.

Down by two runs in the ninth, Auburn used four hits to score three and come away with the win. Coach Tommy Slater said the game was a huge one for his team after a less than impressive performance Tuesday night in a loss to South Alabama.

"You have to love the heart and the determination and the competitiveness of our team tonight," Slater said. "We had a long talk after Tuesday night's game about our lack of playing hard that evening. We had a great practice yesterday. We've played 15 games now and in 14 of those 15 we've played our butts off. You just have to love how hard we played tonight. There was no give-in whatsoever."

Out for the last four games with a strained hamstring, Stringer was making his first start of the year at third base while getting back into the swing of things for the Tigers. Already with one single on the night in three at-bats, Stringer was looking good at the plate, but in his last at-bat he wasn't seeing things so clearly.

"I was happy to be in that situation," Stringer said. "I had been there earlier in the game and I told myself that I was going to have the opportunity later to come up and do it for us. When I got to the plate my contacts started bothering me because they were so blurry, that's why it took me so long to get into the box. The first two pitches I didn't even see. I told myself that I was just going to battle and put the bat on the ball. Sure enough it fell in.

"They were throwing me sliders the whole game so I figured with two strikes I just had to battle and poke something the other way," he added. "I happened to get a slider up in the zone and stayed on it enough to get the run in. It was a great win for our team. Everybody battled the whole game. We didn't catch the ball real well tonight, but the pitchers pitched well and the hitters did just enough to win the game. Hopefully we can come out and win the series tomorrow."

Phillip Stringer was the hero for the Tigers in Friday's game.

Heading into the bottom of the ninth the Tigers had the top of the order coming up with Tyler Johnstone, Bruce Edwards and Clete Thomas at the plate. Following a Johnstone ground out to second base, Edwards played the role of leadoff man as he singled through the left side for his third hit of the game. Thomas followed with a single of his own into right center that pushed Edwards to third base with still just one out.

Staring danger in the face Clemson decided to pitch to Karl Amonite and he promptly singled through the right side to put runners on first and second with still just one out. The hit cut the lead to one with Edwards scoring. Clemson changed pitchers at that point, taking out David Kopp in favor of Stephen Clyne. The move paid immediate dividends as he struck out Josh Bell for the second out. That's when the fun would begin.

Trying to catch Auburn sleeping Clyne faked a move and was called for a balk. It was the third time a Clemson pitcher had been called for a balk during the game and it seemed to bother Clyne as he walked Joey Huskins to load the bases and then pinch-hitter Russell Dixon on four pitches to score Thomas and tie the game at five. That's when Springer did his damage, taking two strikes before lifting a single into shallow center field for the game winner.

The win went to reliever John Madden, his second of the season, but the brunt of the work came from starter Arnold Hughey. Pitching six and one/third innings, Hughey allowed just two earned runs on eight hits while striking out seven Clemson hitters. Madden gave up six hits and one run in two and two/thirds innings. Kopp took the loss for Clemson, giving up five hits and three runs in three and one/third innings.

Auburn got on the board first with a two-out rally in the third inning producing the game's first run. With two outs and nobody on base, center fielder Bruce Edwards got a pitch to drive from Cribb and sent it deep into right field over the head of Travis Storrer. Edwards made it easily to second base and put himself into scoring position for Clete Thomas. Going with the pitch, Thomas hit a liner just inside the bad at third base for another double that scored Edwards and put Auburn ahead.

Clemson answered back in the top of the fourth against Hughey as Taylor Harbin reached on a Stringer error to start things off and advanced to second when Stringer's throw got past Amonite at first. Stringer made a diving stab to get the ball in his first game at third, but couldn't make the throw. Following a groundout that sent him to third, he would score on a Kris Harvey single up the middle. That set up the visiting Tigers as Tyler Colvin doubled to put runners on first and second with just one out, but Hughey responded by getting the next two hitters to end the threat and keep the game tied.

The homestanding Tigers regained the lead in the fourth on a Ben Sprague single to right field that scored Huskins from third, but Clemson came back to tie the game in the sixth with a run off Hughey. With one out Harvey doubled to left just past a diving Stringer at third base. Colvin came through again with a single to score him. After stealing second Colvin was in scoring position, but Hughey toughened up with back-to-back strikeouts of Andy D'Alessio and pinch-hitter Ben Hall to end the inning.

Just like they had done all game long Auburn got the run right back as Bell walked to lead off the sixth inning. For the second time in the game catcher Huskins was hit by a pitch, this time giving Auburn a runner in scoring position with nobody out. Attempting to bunt the runners over, Adam Stacey struck out, but Clemson pitcher Kopp proceeded to balk both runners over to the displeasure of Clemson Coach Jack Leggett and the Clemson players. A long argument proved to be worthless for the visiting Tigers as Kopp walked Stringer to load the bases for Ben Sprague. Coming through in the clutch, Sprague flew out deep to right field to score Bell and give Auburn back the 3-2 lead.

It only lasted for just a few moments though as one swing by Clemson's leadoff hitter put the orange-clad Tigers back in the lead. With one out in the inning Brad Chalk reached on an error by Hughey as he failed to field a short-hop ground ball back to the mound. That play proved to be very costly as Herman Demmink got the pitch he was looking for and drilled it over the right field wall for his first home run of the season to put Clemson ahead 4-3. It was the first home run given up by Auburn pitching in 99 1/3 innings. Clemson would add a run in the eighth inning to set the stage for Auburn's dramatic victory in the bottom of the ninth.

Saturday the Tigers send Josh Sullivan to the mound against Robert Rohrbaugh. Game time for Saturday's contest is 4 p.m.

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