"We had a lot of base hits and a lot of base runners," Pawlowski said. "We hit into a lot of double plays unconventionally. We had some opportunities. Clemson did a great job. They made some great pitches. They played solid defense and I thought that was the difference. Some of those double plays took the wind out of our sails. We had a little momentum going, but we never could get over the top."
On the opposite end of the spectrum Clemson scored 13 times on just 14 hits and left just five runners on base. Left fielder Jeff Schaus had three hits while a trio of Clemson Tigers added two hits each. Included in that were home runs by Kyle Parker and John Hinson.
Senior Ryan Jenkins closed out his Auburn career in style with three hits while Casey McElroy and Justin Bryant also added three hits for the Tigers. It wasn't enough on this night though as the Tigers failed to keep up with Clemson's scoring until it was too much to overcome. Jenkins said the loss was disappointing, but he's proud of what the team accomplished.
"I couldn't be prouder," Jenkins said. "We are in better shape than we were when I got here. To get to the SEC Tournament , host a Regional, and win the SEC West is amazing. I think it's a great opportunity for the younger guys. It gives them experience so next time this won't be new to them like it was to us."
The loss ends Auburn's season with a record of 43-21 while Clemson (41-22) advances to face Alabama at home in this weekend's Super Regional at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Despite the disappointing ending to the season Auburn coach John Pawlowski said there is a lot to be proud of about the way his team played in 2010 beginning with a small, but very important senior class.
"These guys like Ryan Jenkins, Austin Hubbard and Michael Hurst, they have laid a foundation that I'm very proud of," Pawlowski said. "They've been here for a while. They've struggled at times and for them to accomplish what they did this year is certainly a testament to hard work, their work ethic and passion for Auburn. To have an opportunity to play in this type of Regional with the fan support we had, it was remarkable. I'm so proud of these guys."
Auburn's woes in the first inning continued on Monday as Jon Luke Jacobs allowed a single to left field from Mike Freeman with one out to start a Clemson rally. A bloop single by left fielder Jeff Schaus then brought Parker to the plate looking to do some damage. Getting a pitch out over the plate, the right fielder got one up in the wind to right field and deposited it over the wall for a three-run shot. It was his 20th of the season and put Auburn in an early hole.
Clemson added to the lead in the second and knocked Jacobs from the game early. Following a leadoff walk, Wilson Boyd doubled to center field to easily score Richie Shaffer to make it 4-0 Clemson. That was all for Jacobs as Sean Ray came on in relief to face number nine hitter Spencer Kieboom with a man in scoring position. He reached on an infield single, but McElroy knocked the ball down to keep the force intact.
A Will Lamb sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third for Freeman. An Auburn killer the last two days, Freeman went down on strikes for out number two. That left it up to Schaus. On the first pitch he hit a soft single into center field to give Clemson a commanding 6-0 advantage.
The bottom of the second got Auburn's offense rolling as Jenkins led things off with a double to left field and moved to third on a McElroy groundout to the right side. A walk to Sunday night's hero Creede Simpson brought second baseman Justin Bryant to the plate. Continuing his strong play, Bryant singled up the middle to score Jenkins and bring Justin Fradejas up with a runner on. His single through the left side easily scored Simpson to cut the lead down to 6-2.
Later a bases loaded walk to Dan Gamache made it 6-3 and Brian Fletcher and Hunter Morris coming to the plate facing Clemson reliever Dominic Leone. In this inning the freshman got the best of the two juniors as he struck out Fletcher and got Morris on a pop up to end the threat.
A solo home run by Hinson put Clemson's total to seven before Auburn got back to work in the third. Once again it was Jenkins getting things going as he doubled to left field and scored moments later on a double by McElroy. After a balk moved the runner to third, Simpson struck out to give Bryant a shot. His second single of the night scored McElroy to bring the Tigers back to 7-5 disadvantage.
Auburn was held scoreless in the fourth inning as the Tigers left two runners on. Through four innings the Tigers managed nine hits, but left eight runners on base and struck out six times. Those missed opportunities would prove to be huge in a game of this magnitude.
Clemson pushed the lead back to three in the top of the fifth on a single by Brad Miller before Auburn would get the run back in the bottom of the inning via the long ball. With two outs and nobody on Trent Mummey got a pitch and didn't miss it as he launched a long home run to right field over the K Corner. The blast was his 17th of the season and made it 8-6 Clemson. Unfortunately for Auburn things would go downhill from that point forward.
With one out in the seventh a walk to Parker started things up as Miller followed with a bunt single. That was all for Auburn reliever Zach Blatt, who allowed three runs on four hits in three and one/third innings, as Luckie came in and immediately hit Hinson with a pitch to load the bases. Getting behind 2-0, the sophomore gave up a double into the corner to Shaffer to score all three runners. Now trailing 11-6 Auburn was in need of some serious offensive firepower in the bottom of the inning.
Things started off well as McElroy led off by ripping a line drive that just got over the wall in right field for a home run. It was his ninth of the season and got the crowd back in the game. A Simpson double to right-center was all for Clemson reliever Alex Frederick as Kevin Brady came in to face pinch hitter Kevin Patterson.
On a roll at the plate, the junior from Birmingham singled to right field just in front of Parker. Unable to score on the play, Simpson got to third with Mummey coming to the plate. Ripping a ground ball right at the first baseman, Mummey was retired by Shaffer at the bag. He then turned and threw to the plate to catch Simpson trying to score to end the inning.
Auburn again threatened in the eighth as Gamache led off with a double down the right field line and Fletcher followed with what appeared to be a double of his own down the right field line. Making a play on the ball, Parker appeared to touch it with his glove just before he crossed into foul territory. It was ruled a foul ball by first base umpire Randy Bruns and Fletcher struck out for the first out of the inning. The unfortunate night kept up for Auburn as Morris hit a liner to Shaffer at first. He threw behind Gamache for the double play to end the inning.
Following the inning Auburn pitching coach Scott Foxhall gave home plate umpire Kelly Gonzalez a piece of his mind and was tossed from the game. Once that was done Foxhall raced across the field to continue his rant with Bruns that lasted several minutes before he said his peace and left the field with the crowd roaring its approval.
Clemson put the finishing touches on the Regional win in the top of the ninth as the purple Tigers got a pair of runners on base against Hurst with Boyd's double capping the night off for a 13-7 Clemson victory. Auburn loaded the bases in the ninth but was able to score, a fitting end to a frustrating night for the Tigers.
"From the beginning we knew we were going to have to battle," McElroy said. "Nothing has come easy this season. We knew that we would have to give it everything we've got and we did. Clemson just got the big hits and the big pitches they needed to put them in the right spot to win. I'm just so proud of this team. Everything we've been through, all the hard work and all that we've accomplished. It means a lot to have the fans believing in Auburn baseball again."