"The game was played in the seventh inning," Auburn's Tommy Slater said. "We didn't play defense in the seventh and that killed us. There weren't a lot of hard hit balls there and I think the argument could be made that some of those hits in the seventh inning weren't hits, they were errors. We need to make those plays and those are some routine ground balls that the play was not made on. Really, that was the ball game. Madden is going to get ground balls and we've got to be ready to make those plays. On three hitters in a row we didn't."
Leading by one in the seventh and facing Madden, who had not given up a home run in his Auburn career spanning 64 innings, Clemson quickly went two-up and two-down with ground ball outs before Travis Storrer reached on a soft ground ball that Phillip Stringer couldn't make a play on in time. Harvey then had an instant replay with a ground ball to Stringer and the same results. Another infield single, this time by Colvin, set the table for D'Alessio and he wasted little time putting this game away. Jumping on a fastball, he drove it deep off the top of the scoreboard in left-center field for a grand slam and a six-run Clemson lead. It was his second home run of the day and he came into the game with just two hits in seven games this season.
D'Alessio (right) was the big star for Clemson in Sunday's game.
The winning pitcher in the game was Clemson's Kris Harvey, who allowed three runs on nine hits in six and one/third innings of work. While Harvey was good for much of the game Auburn hit the ball well against him and kept the game manageable until late. Slater said the work his team did at the plate was very good against such a quality pitcher.
"I was very proud of our offensive approach tonight against Harvey," Auburn's Tommy Slater said. "You saw all the heat that was in the stands tonight. There was scouting directors, assistant GM's and lots of national cross-checkers in here to see Harvey. We told our guys to lay off the up-zone fastball and they did a great job of that. I thought we had a good approach."
Auburn starter Josh Blake had his second good outing in a row on the mound as he gave up just two runs on five hits in five innings. Throwing 71 pitches, his longest outing of the season, Blake showed that he could be a quality Sunday starter. Slater said that it was an impressive outing for Blake, especially having just one pitch working.
"Josh Blake didn't start off that great in the first two," Slater said. "It didn't look like it was going to be a long outing, but he settled right back in. What Josh showed every today, he only had one pitch. His breaking ball wasn't good today and we went out and said ‘look, the breaking ball isn't any good and we can't use it'. He beat their bats with a fastball the next three innings. He gave us five solid innings and got us through the fifth."
Clemson got on the board first on a Harvey single to center field that scored leadoff man Herman Demmink after he reached on a walk in the first inning and added another single run in the second on D'Alessio's first home run of the game. Auburn answered back in the bottom of the second inning off a Russell Dixon that scored Ben Sprague all the way from first. Sprague reached on a single to raise his average to .400.
Auburn tied the game in the bottom of the fifth inning thanks to the heads up play of Clete Thomas. With one out in the inning Thomas singled to give his team some life. Showing his speed, he stole second during the at-bat of Karl Amonite that ended in a strikeout. Knowing he needed to make something happen Thomas set out for third base with two strikes on Josh Bell. That drew a throw from Clemson catcher Adrian Casanova, who was wild to third base instead. The ball rolled into left field allowing Thomas to score a run and tie the game.
Clemson answered back in a big way in the top of the sixth thanks to the long ball. With reliever Grant Cardwell in the game Tyler Colvin led off the inning with a triple high off the left field wall that Dixon misplayed. D'Alessio did his job with a ground ball to Tyler Johnstone at second base that scored the go-ahead run. Casanova then got his revenge with a home run that appeared to be short of the left field wall and foul in addition. With the score 4-2 Auburn was hoping to stay in the game, but Clemson would have none of that as they broke the game open in the seventh.
Auburn added a single run in the seventh, but Clemson came back to score one in the eighth and five in the ninth off six hits in the ninth to make the final score 13-3 as the visiting Tigers avoided the sweep. Auburn falls to 12-5 overall while Clemson improves to 5-4.
Auburn hit the ball solid, but not at crucial times on Sunday as the Tigers were 0-11 with runners in scoring position and left eight runners on base. Clemson on the other hand scored 12 of its 14 runs with two outs and had 13 of its 18 hits came with two outs.
Thomas was the only Auburn player with at least two hits on the day while Clemson's Storrer had three hits to lead his team. D'Alessio, Colvin, Taylor Harbin and Brad Chalk all had two hits for Clemson.