Tigers win!

CLEMSON — Like any young man, Clemson's Kyle Parker always dreamed of being the guy that would get the game-winning hit in baseball or throw the winning touchdown in football.

One of those dreams came true Monday night. With two outs and runners at second and third, Parker roped a base hit into left field, allowing Ben Paulsen to come home with the tying run and John Nester with the winning run as Clemson rallied to beat Oklahoma State 6-5, winning the Clemson Regional.

Clemson (44-20) will now advance to the super regional round where it will play No. 5 national seed Arizona State (47-12) in Tempe, Ariz., Saturday at 9 p.m. on ESPNU. Game 2 will be Sunday at 10 p.m. on ESPN2 and if necessary, Game 3 will be Monday at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.

"Who doesn't dream of this," Parker said. "It's just like throwing the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter with time running out. It is basically the same situation. This is awesome and I'm glad we are moving on and we will be able to play again."

Senior righty Matt Vaughn made the lead hold up in the ninth inning.

"I talked a whole bunch with Coach (Jack Leggett) about when we get in this situation, I want to be the guy on the mound," Vaughn said. "This might have been my last game. I'll never play at home again, so it was do or die. I didn't want to go out with a bad memory."

It looked for a while, when the Cowboys (34-24) got a home run from Mark Ginther and two RBIs from shortstop Tom Belza, that Tigers would end the 2009 season with a very disappointing loss.

But Clemson kept fighting. Trailing 5-1 going into the bottom of the seventh, it got the spark it had been missing when tournament MVP Chris Epps launched a two-run shot to left field with two outs. Epps finished the night 2-for-4 and was 8 for his last 12 in the last three games, including two home runs.

"It was actually a 0-2 curveball," he said about Monday's home run. "I had to bury my shoulder in there, and he kept throwing a little slide-piece. Luckily, he caught one up in the zone and I just had to react to it."

Epps' home run moved the Tigers within two runs at 5-3 and then second baseman Mike Freeman followed with a double and scored when left fielder Jeff Schaus hit a base hit to right to make the score 5-4. All three runs came with two outs and followed an Oklahoma State error that got Matt Sanders on to setup Epps' home run.

"We battled. We battled," Leggett said. "This was a measure of toughness and I'm just so proud of how they came on."

Clemson continued to press on in the bottom of the eighth inning as Ben Paulsen drew a lead-off walk —the only time the Tigers got a lead-off man on all night — and then two outs later Nester doubled to left field to setup Parker's game-winner.

"(Randy McCurry) made a good pitch at first and then he threw a breaking ball and I recognized it and was able to get it out to left," Parker said.

Parker came in the game in the seventh inning after Addison Johnson had struck out twice. Johnson had replaced Parker in the lineup Sunday after Parker was 17 of his last 95 from the plate.

The sophomore's first at-bat Monday wasn't so good either as starter Tyler Lyons popped up him to first base to keep the futility going.

But Parker never wavered from his confidence and had a gut feeling the game was going to come down to him. When that opportunity came in the eighth inning, he kept his head up.

"(The slump) always crosses your mind," Parker said. "But the thing that I'm always saying is that there is no one else, but myself, that I would want up there in big situations. If you are any kind of player you want to be in there and I'm just glad I got the opportunity and performed tonight."

Vaughn then completed the comeback by inducing an out to short from Tyrone Hambly, which took a great throw from shortstop Brad Miller and then a controversial play at first. Paulsen stretched out to get Miller's throw and appeared to be on the bag, but Oklahoma State coach Frank Anderson argued Paulsen's foot came off the bag and subsequently got himself tossed from the game.

"I thought he was safe," Anderson said. "I hope (first base umpire Dave Buck) was right. I know that sounds kind of funny after I got kicked out for the play, but I hope he was right."

After a base hit by Neil Medchill and then a ground ball-out at second from Kevin David, Vaughn used a slider to strikeout Mark Ginther and started a dog-pile celebration near the mound.

"I'm really proud of our attitude and how tough we were tonight," Leggett said. "We deserved to win and we deserve to come back and have another weekend of baseball."


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