Clemson built an eight-run lead before a late Auburn rally made the final closer than the game really was for most of the afternoon. Starter Tyler Lumsden got the win for Clemson, pitching six innings and giving up three runs on nine hits. Colby Paxton got the loss for Auburn, pitching just three innings, allowing two runs on six hits.
Javon Moran singles against Clemson on Saturday.
On a pitch count after suffering arm problems the last two weeks, Paxton threw 52 before giving way to a flurry of relievers. Josh Sullivan, Lee Carter, Chris Dennis, Andrew Skinner, Daniel Forrer and Jim Miksis all saw action for Auburn in the game. Trailing just 2-1 when Paxton exited, Auburn Coach Steve Renfroe said he thought about going straight to relief ace Levale Speigner, but decided it was probably too risky a move to make with Sunday's game still looming in the distance.
"I thought it was too early because you don't know what tomorrow brings," Renfroe said. "If we had gotten four out of Colby and been in a two-run game from the fifth inning on then I was ready to do it, but not in the third or fourth inning. I wasn't ready and I thought we could hold it together, but we didn't."
In the early going it looked like Paxton might have one of those memorable days. Not overthrowing and getting good movement, he breezed through the first two hitters before giving up a 2-2 single to Brad McCann. That brought powerful first baseman Michael Johnson to the plate. Playing the wind like a golfer, he lifted a fly ball into left field. Pushed by a strong breeze out of the west, the ball carried over the green monster for a two-run home run to put visiting Tigers on the board.
That lead would hold until the bottom of the third. With two outs and nobody on, Sean Gamble singled up the middle. Javon Moran then walked on four pitches to set the table for freshman catcher Josh Bell. He would come through again as he ripped a single to center to score Gamble and make it 2-1. That would be as close as Auburn would get the rest of the game thanks to some timely hitting by the veteran Clemson squad.
Scoring two runs in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings, they pushed the lead out to 10-3 with Auburn's two runs coming in the sixth inning thanks to a gift error by Clemson second baseman Herman Demmink. With two runners on, Tug Hulett hit a grounder towards Demmink and he failed to stay down on the ball. His error allowed the ball to roll all the way to the wall in right-center and score both runners. The momentum would be short lived as Clemson kept Auburn from getting back in the game until late.
Leading 11-3 heading to the bottom of the ninth inning in a scene more fitting for a Sherlock Holmes mystery with a light rain falling and a haze over Plainsman Park, Clemson appeared to have the game in the back but Auburn had a little to say about that. Hulett led off the inning with a single to right field and one out later Chuck Jeroloman singled through the left side to put a runner in scoring position.
Freshman Clete Thomas continued his hot hitting with a single up the middle to score Hulett from second and make it 11-4. After Gamble was hit by a pitch and Doug Vines struck out, Javon Moran's replacement Derek Sain singled to center field to score another run. Karl Amonite, who had six RBI on the day, drilled a double to right field to clear the bases and suddenly Auburn was back in the game at 11-8. Scott Schade, who had five hits in the two games, couldn't come through his last at-bat of the day though as he grounded out to the pitcher to give Clemson the win in game two.
"We played well the first game and they came to play in the second game," Schade said. "They swung the bat and we just couldn't stop the bleeding. They got two runs in four innings straight. We battled at the end but I blew it. Hopefully that will carry over to tomorrow. Clemson is a great team and if we could get two out of three that would be huge. We're going to come out ready to play tomorrow."
Auburn and Clemson will play the final game of the series Sunday at 1:30 with junior Eric Brandon on the mound for Auburn. Brandon is 0-1 with a 10.45 ERA and has made some changes to his delivery since his last outing against Virginia. He will face right-hander Steven Jackson from Clemson. Last season Jackson was 6-1 with a 5.37 earned run average.