Tigers sweep N.C. State

Clemson earns its first ACC sweep of 2009 and finishes in third place in the ACC.

Behind four runs in the first inning and effective relief pitching, No. 14 Clemson edged N.C. State 5-4 in front of 1,149 fans at Doak Field on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers, who swept the series 3-0, improved to 39-17 overall and 19-11 in the ACC. N.C. State ended its season with a 25-31 overall record and 10-20 ACC mark.

The Tigers earned their first and only ACC sweep of 2009. In all, Clemson won seven of its 10 conference series, as the Tigers had a 1-2 record in each of their three losing series. Clemson's 19 league wins tied for the most by an ACC team in 2009 as well.

The Tigers finished the regular season by winning each of their last five games, seven of their last eight games, 11 of their last 13 games, and 14 of their last 17 games. Clemson finished in third place in the overall ACC standings and will carry a #3 seed into the ACC Tournament.

Tiger reliever Clinton McKinney (4-0) earned the win, as he pitched 1.2 perfect innings with a strikeout. Tomas Cruz retired the only batter he faced to record his fourth save of the season. Six Tiger hurlers combined to hold N.C. State to just six hits.

Wolfpack starter Jake Buchanan (2-6) suffered the loss, as he yielded five runs on nine hits in 6.1 innings pitched. Cory Mazzoni pitched 2.2 perfect innings in relief as well.

The Tigers grabbed the game's first lead for the 11th game in a row when Chris Epps hit the first pitch of the contest over the fence in left field for an opposite-field home run, his second long ball of the season. After Mike Freeman followed with a walk and Jeff Schaus lined out to right, Ben Paulsen reached on an infield single. Two batters later, Wilson Boyd belted a two-out double to left-center to score Freeman and Paulsen. John Nester then grounded a single through the left side to score Boyd, giving Clemson a 4-0 lead.

The Wolfpack responded in the bottom of the first inning when Drew Poulk lined a solo homer to left field, his ninth long ball of the season.

In the fourth inning, Poulk led off with a walk and Andrew Ciencin followed with a line-drive single to left field. After Harold Riggins walked to load the bases with no outs, Cameron Conner lofted a sacrifice fly to left-center to score Poulk as Ciencin and Riggins also moved up a base. McKinney entered the game in relief and had Riggins picked off second base, but shortstop Brad Miller dropped the ball on what would have been out #2 as Ciencin scored from third when the ball went into centerfield. But McKinney retired the next two batters to keep Clemson ahead 4-3.

Clemson doubled its lead in the seventh inning. Nester led off with a double to right-center and went to third on Miller's groundout. Nester then scored on a wild pitch on what proved to be the eventual deciding run.

The Wolfpack came right back and cut Clemson's lead in half in the bottom of the seventh inning. Chris Schaeffer drew a two-out walk and went to third on Dallas Poulk's single to right-center. Schaeffer scored on a wild pitch, then Kyle Wilson and Devon Cartwright both walked to load the bases. But Wade Moore grounded out to first to keep Clemson ahead 5-4.

In the eighth inning, Ciencin led off with a line-drive single to left field and went to second on Riggins' sacrifice bunt. After Pratt Maynard struck out for out #2, Russell Wilson hit a slow chopper to short. Miller made the barehanded pickup and threw to first to narrowly retire Wilson for the inning-ending out.

In the ninth inning, Dallas Poulk hit a one-out single up the middle. Boyd made a nice running catch in left-center on a ball hit by Kyle Wilson for out #2, then the Tigers called on Cruz to enter the game on the mound. Cruz struck out Cartwright on a 1-2 breaking ball to end the game.

Boyd led Clemson's nine-hit attack by going 2-for-4 with two doubles, two RBIs, and a run. Nester went 2-for3 with a double and run, while Paulsen added two hits and a run. Stolz also extend his hitting streak to 10 games, tied for the longest by a Tiger in 2009, with his seventh-inning single. Ciencin had a team-high two hits for N.C. State, who had six hits in the game. In the series, the Tigers outscored N.C. State 29-17 and outhit the Wolfpack .342 to .283. Clemson also scored 15 of its 29 runs in the first inning. Boyd went 6-for-12 (.500) with three doubles and five RBIs, while Stolz went 5-for-10 (.500) in the series. Clemson will remain in the area to play in the ACC Tournament at Durham (NC) Bulls Athletic Park next week. The round-robin tourney will begin on Wednesday. The Tigers' first game of the tournament will either be on Wednesday or Thursday. Seedings, game dates, and game times will be announced by the league office on Saturday night.

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