For the first six innings of Friday's game, Clemson starter Matthew Crownover had frustrated and flummoxed Arizona State, only allowing one run on three hits against a mystified Sun Devil lineup.
It would end up being the Tigers, however, that left Goodwin Field dazed and confused, all thanks to a three-run seventh frame that saw their lead disappear quicker than you can say ACC Pitcher of the Year. The maroon and gold used a brief lapse of control from Crownover to take a two run lead before the inning was over, and they would go on to cruise to a huge 7-4 victory in the first game of the Fullerton Regional.
Both starting pitchers began the game on cruise control. Head coach Tracy Smith made the last second decision to start junior Ryan Kellogg, and the move paid off, big time.
The southpaw worked seven innings on Friday, only allowing two runs on six hits. Both of those runs came on one swing of the bat from Clemson's nine-hole hitter, a huge two-out, two-strike homer back up the middle that almost felt like a dagger with the way Crownover had been dealing.
Slowly but surely though, Arizona State would get to him. Jake Peevyhouse earned the team's first hit in the fourth inning, and a solo bomb from Trever Allen to lead off the bottom half of the fifth cut the deficit in half.
Kellogg was able to keep his club in the game by doing what he does so well, working out of crucial jams in back-to-back innings after the Sun Devils got their first run. He got a loud line drive out to center to strand three Tigers in the sixth, and did not allow a run in the seventh despite allowing a single and walk.
The No. 2 seed from Tempe finally got their pitcher the support he deserved in the seventh. After recording a quick strikeout to start the frame, Crownover threw six straight balls to the next two batters. His seventh pitch would be the one to do him in.
Joey Bielek got all of a 2-0 breaking ball that was served up to him, taking the pitch over the wall in left centerfield to give the maroon and gold a 3-2 lead. With Clemson's players and fans still shocked by the blast, the next man to the plate, Brian Serven, poured some salt in their wounds with a solo blast to nearly the same spot. That made the score 4-2, which seemed like more than enough insurance with the way both pitchers had been dealing.
The back-to-back jacks forced the Tigers to turn to their bullpen in the eighth, and Arizona State took advantage of the overmatched relief pitchers. An RBI fielder's choice for Colby Woodmansee gave the Sun Devils an insurance run, and a two-RBI triple off the bat of Allen broke this one wide open at 7-2.
Clemson tried to mount a desperate rally in the ninth, but at that point any attempt at a comeback felt like pitiful cries to a disinterested god. Two runs scored on a two out base hit from Eli White, and that forced Smith to call upon closer Ryan Burr. The flame-thrower did his job, freezing the final Tiger batter with a 3-2 fastball on the inside corner to end the game.
Kellogg (9-2) earned the win in one of his strongest outings of the season. Crownover (10-3) will have a sour taste in his mouth after being charged with the loss.
With the victory, the maroon and gold advance to tomorrow night's winner's bracket game against Cal State Fullerton. First pitch is set for 8:00 PM and fans not in attendance can watch on ESPN3.