June 3, 2006
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CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) _ When Clemson’s Andy D’Alessio watched teammate Taylor Harbin hit his second homer of the game against Elon, he thought, “Oh man, this is crazy.”
D’Alessio made things even crazier moments later, following Harbin’s second shot with a second homer of his own to help Clemson stay unbeaten at its NCAA regional with a 13-3 victory Saturday night.
Harbin says whenever someone hits a homer in front of D’Alessio, Clemson’s home run leader had a solid track record of following with a dinger of his own. In fact, D’Alessio has been involved all six times the Tigers did it this season.
After they had accomplished it in the first inning to give Clemson a 5-0 lead, Harbin started the third with a homer. “I was back in the dugout and kind of thinking to myself, ‘There’s no way he’s going to hit one right here.'” Harbin said. “All of a sudden, I just see the ball jump off the bat and say, ‘No way.'”
After the pair homered in the third, the Tigers were up 7-1 and Elon could not catch them.
Should the Tigers (48-14) display this sort of power the rest of the way, they’ll be a difficult punch out in the NCAA opponent.
Stephen Faris took care of things on the mound for Clemson, holding Elon to five hits and three runs in eight strong innings. Faris struck out seven and walk no one to notch his first NCAA victory in four tournament starts.
Faris gave the Tigers, the NCAA tournament’s top seed, its second solid pitching performance Saturday.
Righty Sean Clark pitched eight strong innings to lead Clemson to a 3-0 victory over North Carolina Asheville in the completion of a game suspended by rain Friday night after just half an inning.
Clemson will face Elon again or Mississippi State on Sunday night for the chance to advance to a super regional next week. Should the Tigers lose that, they would play a winner-take-all game Monday night.
The Phoenix and Bulldogs, who play earlier Sunday in an elimination game, face long odds in beating Clemson two straight on its home field, something that’s happened only once this season and just twice in 39 NCAA games here since 1980.
Especially, if Clemson’s bats and arms stay as hot as they’ve been.
Brad Chalk singled in the first off Elon freshman starter Steven Hensley. Marquez Smith followed with a ball right back to Hensley that looked like an inning-ending double play. But Hensley threw wide to the bag _ “He threw a changeup to second,” Elon coach Mike Kennedy said _ to leave runners on first and third.
A balk by Hensley brought in Chalk. After a walk to Tyler Colvin, Harbin lofted the ball just over the fence in right center. D’Alessio then cracked his homer off the high forest green wall in straightaway center.
That was it for Hensley (6-4) and the Phoenix.
Elon’s Kennedy said Hensley seemed nervous during warmups, going against the NCAA tournament favorite in front of a crowd of 6,031 that’s six times larger than the Phoenix’s biggest home game.
Still, if Hensley’s early throw was clean, Kennedy thought “it would’ve given our freshman a chance to settle down, it would’ve given our kids a chance to settle down and say, ‘Hey, we’re still in the ball game,'” he said.
Instead, Faris (9-2) took control. He retired 11 in a row during the middle innings and only once permitted more than one runner to reach base.
The closest Elon came to a rally was when Robert Rodebaugh’s two-run homer cut the lead to 7-3 in the sixth. But Clemson added five runs in its half to put things out of reach.
Harbin got his sixth and seventh homers of the season while D’Alessio improved his team leading total to 22.
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