Tigers miss on golden opportunity

CLEMSON — For Ben Paulsen, Ned Medchill's game-winning hit in the bottom of the eighth inning for Oklahoma State Saturday was a play he usually makes in practice every day.

Instead, Medchill's hit to the Clemson first baseman took a bad hop hitting just off his glove and into right field, allowing Michael Dabbs to come all the way from second to ultimately give the Cowboys a 3-2 win in front of 5,740 fans at Doug Kingsmore Stadium in the Clemson Regional.

"It's like one of those plays at practice that you feel like you can get every time, but it just hit off the heel of my glove and bounced into the outfield and I guess it was hit just hard enough and off my glove to allow that runner to score from second," Paulsen said.

The loss marked the first time since 2002 the Tigers (41-20) lost a home regional or super regional game.

Clemson had won 11 straight prior to Saturday night and are now 22-2 all-time at Doug Kingsmore in the current regional-super regional format.

"This was a tough loss for us," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "Casey pitched a heck of a ballgame and their guy (Andrew Oliver) did a nice job pitching and it just seemed as if we couldn't catch up with his fastball there and we left some men on base."

The Tigers worse case of leaving runners on came in the top of the eighth inning after Mike Freeman tied the game with an RBI single to right field with one out. With the go-ahead run just 90 feet away, Clemson was unable to bring it home as Jeff Schaus — Friday's hero — struck out and after intentionally walking Ben Paulsen, relief pitcher Randy McCurry got Kyle Parker to pop up to first base to end the threat.

"We just couldn't find the big hit when we had men on base and I think that is the biggest issue right now," Leggett said. "We have to be a little bit more productive."

Clemson's inability to move runners over came back to hurt it in Oklahoma State's bottom half of the eighth. With one out, Dabbs hit what looked like a routine fly ball to left centerfield, but the ball hung up in the air and Schaus in left and centerfielder Wilson Boyd mis-communicated on the play and the ball fell in between them.

Dabbs was rewarded a double on the play and scored Medchill's hit off Paulsen's glove.

"I don't know if (Wilson) saw Jeff coming out of the corner of his eye or what happened, but it's unfortunate because if we can make that play we would be in better shape," Leggett said.

Clemson was in good shape and got another solid outing from starter Casey Harman. A week after going seven innings and striking out 10 North Carolina batters, he recorded eight strikeouts in 6.1 innings of work against Oklahoma State.

Through the first six innings, the lefty allowed just one hit and two walks and kept the Cowboys (34-22) guessing until Tom Belza — the Cowboys' hero on Friday — hit his fourth home run of the regional by barely clearly the top of the foul pole in right field in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Mark Ginther then followed with a home run of his own a few pitches later for a 2-0 Oklahoma State lead.

Clemson tied the game in the top of the eighth after Brad Miller had a one-out hit and Nester got a pinch hit up the middle to set Epps' RBI knock to right to score Miller. Freeman then tied the game at 2-2 with a base hit to right field to score Nester.

The Tigers will now have to win the 3 p.m. game against Tennessee Tech, who eliminated No. 2 seed Alabama, Sunday and then beat the Cowboys in the nightcap to force a championship game on Monday. Clemson will start freshman lefty Chris Dwyer (4-5, 5.30 ERA).

Tennessee Tech will start left-hand pitcher Chason Choate (4-1, 4.06 ERA).

"We had a golden opportunity with runners on second and third and we could not finish it off so now our goal tomorrow is focused on that game at three o'clock," Leggett said.

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