Clemson burned by the Sun Devils

TEMPE, Ariz. — Jeff Schaus just stared straight ahead and only spoke when asked a question.

Of course for the Clemson left fielder, most of those questions were about the way Arizona State pitcher Josh Spence baffled the Tigers' lineup.

Spence, who had battled through numerous injuries this season, including back spasms that had some wondering if he could pitch past the second inning in Sunday night's Tempe (Ariz.) Super Regional, was masterful against a Clemson attack that just last week scored 25 runs in two games.

The lefty owned the Tigers' in a complete game performance that saw him strike out 10 batters, while walking one in an 8-2 victory to send his team to Omaha for a second time in three years. ASU won the best two-out-of-three series 2-0 and will play North Carolina at next week's College World Series.

"That performance today was as good as I have been around," Arizona State head coach Pat Murphy said. "With all that's happened this year — the kid got hit in the face with a line drive, tore a tendon in his finger then he hurt his back at home plate in his comeback debut and now he is out there pitching nine innings."

It was a masterful nine innings for Spence as he gave up just four hits, but two came in the ninth when the game had basically been decided. He threw only 105 pitches to improve his record to 9-1 and in five innings he threw 13 or less pitches.

It was Clemson's lowest run total since a 4-2 loss to Georgia on April 1 and the lowest number of hits since a 5-2 loss to North Carolina on March 7.

"With a left-handed lineup, the slider was working, but on a different day, it might be a different pitch," Spence said. "I guess tonight I was able to keep them off balance and sneak a few fastballs through here and there."

When Schaus took a 1-1 breaking pitch over the fence in right field in the bottom of the fourth Sunday night, the 13th-ranked Tigers had a one-run lead halfway through the game and starter Chris Dwyer had held No. 2 Arizona State to two hits through four innings.

"We knew they were a good team and one run was going to be tough to hold up against then," Schaus said. "It gave us some confidence that we could play with them for a little bit, but it didn't last."

It didn't even last a half inning.

The Sun Devils (49-12) figured Dwyer out in the fifth inning and Schaus' solo home run soon meant nothing as Arizona State put five runs on the board to break the game open.

"It was a tough loss for us," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said.

For Clemson (44-22) it was another good season that fell two games shy of Omaha. It's the third time in the last five years the Tigers have been eliminated from the super regional round and the fifth time since 1999.

All five have come away from Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

"I'm real proud of our players. They have battled all year long and they are a real tough team," Leggett said. "They are a young team and they showed some real toughness the last part of the season to get here.

"We knew we had a heck of a challenge on our hands when we came here."

The Tigers and the Sun Devils had a heck of a ballgame going as Dwyer and Spence dominated the first four innings. The two allowed just three hits and struck out 13 batters to start the game.

Spence had a perfect game going until Schaus caught the wind to right field and but the Tigers up 1-0.

"Today, I thought we had a real good ballgame going right up until the fifth inning. I thought we had a chance," Leggett said.

But Clemson's chance went out the window when ASU scored five runs on four hits to run Dwyer out of the game and basically end the Tigers' season.

"We had a rough fifth inning," Leggett said. "We got behind a little bit and they opened it with a base hit through the six-hole and they started to get their game going and we had a few mistakes.

"That opened up the game a little bit for them."

The Sun Devils (49-12) took the lead away from Clemson in the top of the fifth when Pac-10 Player of the Year Jason Kipnis singled with one out to score Johnny Ruettiger and Zack MacPhee for a 2-1 lead. Two batters later, Kole Calhoun doubled to deep left, scoring Kipnis and Saturday's top hitter Carlos Ramirez to end Dwyer's night.

Matt Newman had a two-out RBI hit a few batters later to make the score 5-1.

"It looked easy, but it certainly wasn't," Murphy said. "Clemson has a very good ball club and I have great respect for Jack Leggett and I really feel like Jack brought a club in here that is very capable of being in Omaha and deserves to be in Omaha."

But Clemson ran into Spence in game two and he prevented the Tigers from any chance of advancing past the super regional.

"He is pretty savvy out there," Schaus said. "He made some adjustments and we could not catch up."

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