Tigers Cruise Through Regional

Tigers Cruise Through Regional

May 27, 2001

Box Score

Sunday’s Post Game Audio

Post Game Quotes

Clemson, SC – Tournament MVP Michael Johnson slammed his third home run in three games, and Matt Henrie allowed just one run in six innings of pitching, leading Clemson to an 8-2 victory over Seton Hall in the championship game of the Clemson Regional of the NCAA baseball tournament at Kingsmore Stadium.

The Tigers will now move on to the Super Regional where they will face the winner of the Coral Gables Regional next weekend in a three-game series. Miami (FL) was playing Stetson for the championship of that regional at the time of this writing.

Sunday’s victory marked the third consecutive year that Clemson has advanced to at least the Super Regional of the tournament. Clemson won the Fayetteville, AR regional in 1999 and the Clemson regional last year. The Tigers have now won eight straight NCAA tournament games at Kingsmore Stadium.

The Tigers defeated Big East Tournament Champion Seton Hall twice, 24-4 on Saturday and 8-2 on Sunday. Jack Leggett’s team opened with a 4-1 triumph over William & Mary on Friday night behind Steve Reba. Clemson now advances to the Super Regional with a 41-20 record. Seton Hall ends its season with a 34-23-1 ledger.

Johnson,a sophomore from Georgetown, SC, won tournament MVP honors with his three home runs and 11 RBIs. Over the three games he was 7 for 11 at the plate, a tournament best .636 batting average. He also led the tournament in total bases with 17 in just 11 at bats.

Johnson became the first Tiger since 1993 to slam three home runs in a regional. Keith Williams, who went on to a Major League career with the San Francisco Giants, had three in the 1993 regional at Knoxville, TN. Johnson’s 11 RBIs were the most by a Tiger in an NCAA Tournament since Jerome Robinson had 13 when he won regional MVP honors in 1996.

Six Clemson players were chosen to the all-tournament team. Joining Johnson, the selection at first base, were Ryan Riley at second base, Steve Reba as a pitcher and Jarrod Schmidt as the utility player.

Other all-tournament selections were Brendan Harris of William & Mary (SS), Joe Cuervo of Seton Hall (OF), Cameron Likely of South Alabama (OF), Warren Hanna of South Alabama (C) and B.J. Benik of Seton Hall (pitcher).

Johnson was one of three Tigers to record home runs on Sunday. Jeff Baker hit a round tripper in the eighth. All three players had two RBIs to account for six of Clemson’s eight runs. It was the12th of the year for Greene and the 23rd for Baker.

Getting the leadoff man on base was the key to victory for the Tigers, who have a 19-4 record under Jack Leggett in NCAA regional games at Kingsmore Stadium. In 17 innings against Seton Hall the Tigers got the leadoff man on base six times. The Tigers scored 29 runs in those six innings. Clemson scored just two runs in the 11 innings it failed to get the leadoff man on base against the Pirates.

Clemson had outstanding fielding in the three game series. The Tigers had just one error in the three games of the regional, much to the delight of the Tiger pitching staff, which yielded just seven runs in the three games of the regional.

Henrie labored in the early inning, but allowed just one run. Over the first four innings, Seton Hall left nine runners on base. He walked the bases loaded in the second inning, but got out of the jam by striking out Cuervo, who had three hits on the day, and getting Mike Bascom to ground out to shortstop. For his six innings, Henrie gave up just five hits, but walked a career high five batters. He improved his record to 6-3 with the win.

Clemson opened the scoring in the bottom of the third with a two-run home run by Johnson, the third consecutive game the Tiger sophomore first baseman had hit a home run to account for Clemson’s first runs of the game. His shot to the scoreboard in right center was his 17th home run of the year, his sixth in eight games. The homer came off Seton Hall starter and loser Brett Hoffman (0-3), who was making just his third start of the year.

Seton Hall cut the margin to 2-1 in the fourth inning. With two out, right fielder Joe Cuervo singled to left. He stole second and scored on Mike Bascom’s single to right.

The sixth inning has been Clemson’s top frame all year, outscoring the opposition 61-32 for the season. It proved to be pivotal again as the Tigers put the game away with five runs on four hits. Nine batters came to the plate.

Chad Coder led off with a sharp single to left. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Kyle Frank and scored on a single to right by catcher Ryan Riley then flew out to centerfield, leaving the score 3-1 with two out in the bottom of the sixth.

Casey Stone worked a walk and promptly stole second. Baker followed with a single that scored Miller and Stone. Seton Hall took Hoffman out of the game and brought in Elvis Quezada, a relief pitcher who had faced 70 batters for the year without giving up a home run. Khalil Greene changed all that with a home run over the centerfield fence, givng the Tigers a 7-1 lead.

Seton Hall added a run in the seventh on a home run by Brian Leighton,but the Tigers countered with a home run by Baker in the bottom of the eighth. It was Baker’s 23rd home run of the season, leaving the All-American shortstop just one away from the Clemson single season mark of 24 set by Matthew LeCroy in 1997 and Eric Macrina in 1991.

Post Game Quotes

Winning Coach (Jack Leggett, Clemson) “It was a different ball game than yesterday, and I expected that. I liked the way we responded late in the ball game. I thought Matt Henrie did a good job even though he didn’t have his best stuff. He battled out there and got us through six innings and then our relief pitching was good after that. We played great defense all weekend long. We just made one error in three ball games.”

“Our hitting is starting to come along. We got some big hits today. Michael Johnson’s two run homer was very big to break the ice. Seth Miller’s hit was a big hit to put us up 3-1 after they had made it 2-1. Kahlil Greene’s hit, the two run homer was big. Casey Stone has been a catalyst for us all season long. I was pleased to see Michael Johnson step up and be the MVP of the tournament, he deserved it.”

“I’m pleased with how our team’s playing right now. We’ve got one team standing in our way right now from going to Omaha. We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us and we’re looking forward to that already.”

“It’s a great accomplishment for our program to have won three regional championships in a row. It was not easy. When you get into a tournament like this you have got to be playing your best baseball. I think we’re doing that right now. The team is coming together. The team chemistry is coming together. I can see and feel that happening. The focus is a lot stronger. The confidence level is higher. The purpose in taking the field every day is a lot more meaningful. I think they see what they can accomplish if they pull together and play real well together down the stretch here. I’m pleased more than anything with the attitude and enthusiasm of this baseball team right now. We were tough this weekend.”

Losing Coach (Rob Sheppard, Seton Hall) “I would just to thank the people of Clemson and the NCAA for running a first class regional this weekend. This was our second year in a row going to a regional and I am extremely proud of our guys. They knocked off the number-one in the opening round and they battled hard all weekend.”

“We played a very good Clemson team today that I am sure will go along in the tournament from this point on. I really think the game would have had a different complexion if we had been able to score a few runs in the first couple of innings. Clemson really bared down when they had to, though, and they did what they had to do to win.”