Despite the loss, Auburn received an outstanding pitching performance from starter Colby Paxton. Facing one of the tougher lineups in the country, Paxton went five and two/thirds innings and allowed four runs on five hits while striking out one. If not for the pitching performance of Clemson starter Matt Henrie this game could have been even closer than it was. Throwing six complete innings, he allowed just five hits and one run to pick up his first win of the season and outduel Paxton in a classic baseball game dominated by the pitching.
Colby Paxton pitches for the Tigers.
"I thought I threw well," Paxton said. "I should have finished the last guy in the last inning, but that's the way it goes sometimes. I thought we played well as a team. We hit a little bit but they're a great club. They hit the ball and hit the ball at the right time today and got the runs when they needed them...I think this trip helps us a lot because you couldn't fit any more people in here today. This is an intense place to play and we came out here and battled and we're scrappy, but we've got to learn to put people away. I think that will come."
For Auburn coach Steve Renfroe, Saturday's game was almost a carbon-copy of Friday's in which the Clemson Tigers seemed to get every big hit when they needed them most. That wasn't the case for Auburn, which continued to strand runners in key situations, particularly early in games when they had a chance to jump ahead of the home team.
"We have got to become playmakers," Renfroe said. "We made a few mental mistakes at the plate today in counts where we had a chance to swing the bat. If we are going to be a good club, that's the difference in this weekend right now. They have some guys who have been there before and found a way to get a hit someway in that situation. We've had a few at-bats where our guys would probably want them back because of their approach, but their concentration is great and their effort is great. We just need to mature a little bit in our approach."
Mike Mueller drills a single to right in Saturday's game. He had two hits on the day to lead the team along with Trent Pratt as Auburn had just nine hits on the day.
With the game tied at one heading to the bottom of the sixth, this looked to be a classic pitcher's duel between Paxton and Clemson starter Matt Henrie. But, things changed quickly and it all began with a bloop single to right field off the bat of David Slevin. He quickly moved to second on a hit-and-run that turned into a 4-3 fielder's choice. Shortstop Khalil Greene then flew out to left fielder Mike Mueller and things appeared to be settling down for Paxton, but that wasn't to be the case. With home run king Jeff Baker heading to the plate, the Tigers wanted to be careful and they were. Pitching around Baker, Paxton ran the count to 3-1 before putting Baker on intentionally. The same pattern followed with the next batter as Michael Johnson was put on to load the bases.
With the bases full, Auburn went to the bullpen for true freshman Steven Register. The nerves and rowdy crowd were too much for the Columbus, Ga., native to handle as he walked Jarrod Schmidt on four pitches to push across Slevin with the go-ahead run. Jeff Hourigan then dropped a single to left just over the head of Josh Todd that scored Baker and Johnson to make it 4-1. Zane Green closed the scoring on the inning with a single to center that scored Schmidt and Clemson led 5-1.
Auburn would make a run at the home-standing Tigers in the top of the seventh. Trent Pratt got things going with a single to right field and Todd followed with a single to center to put runners on first and second. A sacrifice bunt by Jonathan Schuerholz moved both runners up to set the stage for a possible big inning. But just like Friday, the Tigers couldn't bunch hits together. They would push across both runners on groundouts by Doug Vines and Javon Moran, but still trailed 5-3 heading to the bottom of the seventh.
Jeff Baker has five RBI in just two games this weekend for Clemson.
Clemson would put the game away in its half of the seventh thanks to three runs, two of which came on a triple by Baker. Auburn would make another run in the top of the eighth thanks to a couple of extra-base hits from the middle of the Tiger order. Designated hitter Bobby Huddleston drilled a double to left-center with one out to breathe some life into his club. It translated into a couple of runs just one batter later as Scott Schade drilled a fastball deep over the left field fence for a home run to make the score 8-5 Clemson.
Pitching dominated early for both teams as Paxton and Henrie both had their way on a beautiful, sunny afternoon at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Auburn had base runners in each of the first three innings, but came away empty thanks in part to a pair of double plays in the first and second.
Clemson was in the same boat as it was held scoreless until the bottom of the fourth. Slevin once again got the ball rolling, this time with a single to center. One out later the first run of the game would be put on the board as Greene doubled into the left-center field gap to give Clemson the 1-0 lead.
Auburn tied the game in the top of the sixth as Doug Vines led things off with a double down the left field line. Following a groundout by Moran that moved him to third, he would score on a sacrifice fly by Hulett to center to tie the game at one each.
The same two teams complete the three-game series at 1 p.m. CST on Sunday with Eric Brandon taking the mound against Steven Jackson for Clemson. Brandon is 1-0 on the season with an ERA of 2.70 while Jackson was 2-1 last season with a 5.35 earned run average.
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