Schaus lifts Tigers

CLEMSON — It was no more than a few feet, but it was enough between first base and Tennessee Tech first baseman Tate McMillan for Clemson's Jeff Schaus to squeeze a one-out double between them to score the tying and winning run in the bottom of the ninth in the Tigers' 5-4 victory.

With runners on first and second, McMillan was leaning more towards second when Schaus took Lee Henry's pitch right down the line and past McMillan, who stretched out for the ball.

"I was a little surprised (he was playing so far off)," Schaus said. "I thought they were playing no doubles, but hey that's baseball and it worked out for us."

Tennessee Tech coach Matt Bragga took the blame for McMillan playing so far off the bag.

"That's my fault," he said. "You hate to look back, but at that point in the game I had him too far off the line because a double probably scores the winning run and that's what happened."

For Schaus, who also had a solo home run to left field in the fifth, he was certainly happy when he saw the ball hug the line and stay fair.

"When I saw it go past him, it was a great feeling," he said.

It was also great for the sophomore to win the game in a pressure situation and advance the Tigers into the winners' bracket where they will play Oklahoma State, a 10-6 winner over Alabama earlier, at 7 p.m Saturday.

"I love pressure," the left fielder said. "I just try not to think too much about it and put the ball in play."

It seems as if the whole Clemson team loved the pressure down the stretch. The Tigers (41-19) have made a habit of playing games down to the wire this season, including 13 that were decided by one run. Friday's NCAA Tournament win was their second straight walk-off victory.

But it was loses to South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida State in similar fashion earlier in the season that gave Clemson the knowledge and experience it needed to take out No. 4 seed Tennessee Tech this time around.

"I think we felt how bad it was to lose those one-run games in the ninth so we definitely learned from those experience," Schaus said.

It looked for a while Clemson was doing everything it could to lose to the upstart Golden Eagles.

The Tigers first fell behind 4-1 after two wild pitches from reliever Graham Stoneburner and then after pulling with one-run, 4-3, in the bottom of the fifth, they wasted the lead-off man getting on base in the sixth, seventh and eighth.

"We played with fire," Tennessee Tech head coach Matt Bragga said. "Against a great team like Clemson that is going to catch up with you."

It got up with the Golden Eagles in the bottom of the ninth as Addison Johnson roped a single into right field to lead the inning off. It was the seventh straight inning the lead-off batter successfully got on base.

Chris Epps then laid down a bunt that just got past pitcher Lee Henry and second baseman Chad Hayes was playing too far back to make a play. Two batters later, Schaus ripped the winning hit down the right field line to win the game.

"This was a typical tournament game," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "Tennessee Tech did an outstanding job. They pitched well and kept us off balance. We just couldn't find a good hit.

"But Epps had a big bunt and then Schaus followed with a clutch hit."

It was Tennessee Tech (30-23-1) that was getting the tough hits early on. The Golden Eagles took a 2-0 lead through three innings on a couple of hits from Alex Henry and Heath Cheverton before Kirby Jones picked up an RBI on a Clemson error in the fifth inning and another run crossed thanks to a wild pitch.

"I don't think we were nervous or anything, we were just rusty," Schaus said. "We had six days off and we just had to get comfortable."

Clemson finally got comfortable in the fifth inning as after Jason Stolz drew a lead-off walk and later scored on a RBI from Mike Freeman. Schaus later hit a solo shot to left centerfield to pull the scoring within one run.

"When you have so much time off, you're not as sharp offensively and that's what happened today," Leggett said. "It took us a while for us to get into it and we were facing a good pitcher. You can't simulate situations like this in practice. We kept our heads in the ballgame mentally and that was a good thing."

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