Tigers Roar Into Sunday

CLEMSON – The Clemson Tiger baseball team is now in perfect position to take care of the NCAA Tournament Regional following an offensive explosion and stellar pitching performance against Elon Saturday night.

The No. 1 seed Tigers got eight strong innings from Stephen Faris, while shortstop Taylor Harbin and first baseman Andy D'Alessio took care of the offense in their 13-3 romp over No. 2 Elon at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

Clemson (49-14) now stands just one win shy of advancing to the Super Regionals.

"I think we played really well tonight," Tigers coach Jck Leggett said. "We were on all cylinders tonight in a lot of different ways. I thought Stephen pitched excellent. … We played excellent defense behind him. … Offensively, I thought we swung the bats really well and our base running was good."

Offensively, the Tigers were nearly unstoppable. They produced 15 hits, eight of which went for extra bases. But the stars of the show were Harbin and D'Alessio.

In the first inning, Harbin smacked a three-run homer to right-center field to make it 4-0. D'Alessio immediately followed with a solo home run off the green monster in center field to stake the Tigers to a 5-0 lead.

Two innings later, the two were at it again as Harbin hit a solo shot deep over the fence in left field. Two pitches later, D'Alessio smoked one over the fence in right-center field to make it 7-1.

"You don't see back-to-back home runs by the same two guys twice in the same game," D'Alessio said.

Those were the fifth and sixth times this season the Tigers have hit back-to-back homers. Not surprisingly, D'Alessio, who has 22 home runs, has been involved in all of them, while Harbin and D'Alessio have done the last three.

Members of the Clemson sports information department went back and were able to discover that there were no occurrences of the same two Clemson players hitting back-to-back home runs in the game since 1973. Time did not allow them to go back further.

"After the first one, we had kind of joked about it a little bit," Harbin said. "But no way did we think it'd happen."

Clemson was put into position to hit the home runs in the first inning after Elon freshman pitcher Steven Hensley field a Marquez Smith hit for what seemed like a guaranteed double play to end the inning. However, he threw it wild and it went into centerfield.

He then balked in a run, walked another batter and then served up the two homers.

In all, he threw just 26 pitches and recorded one out before being benched.

"We had a freshman on the mound that was nervous," Phoenix coach Mike Kennedy said. "We had a chance to get out of the inning and that didn't happen for us. Then it just complied for us. Obviously, when you do that against the number one team in the tournament, chances are slim to be successful."

By winning, Clemson, which has most wins in the country, will play Sunday at 7 p.m. against the winner between Elon (45-17) and No. 3 Mississippi State (36-22), which eliminated UNC Asheville earlier in the day with a 5-4 victory.

Josh Cribb (9-0) will start for the Tigers.

"I think it helped us to play this morning," said Leggett, eluding to Clemson's 3-0 win over UNC Asheville in the first of three regional games Saturday. "Just to get the jitters out and see some live pitching. Hopefully we'll be ready tomorrow, we'll play a tough opponent in either Elon or Mississippi State. I'm sure they'll be ready to give us everything they've got."

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