(5) Sun Devils 8, Tigers 2
June 7, 2009
Spence's complete game leads Arizona St. to Omaha
Updated: June 8, 2009, 2:47 AM ET
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Josh Spence threw a four-hitter and struck out 10, Jason Kipnis' two-run single keyed a five-run fifth inning and Arizona State beat Clemson 8-2 on Sunday night to advance to the College World Series for the third time in five seasons.
Spence, an Australian left-hander hampered by a tendon injury in his pitching hand late in the season, retired the first 11 batters he faced and walked one in his second complete game of the year. He improved to 9-1, winning for the first time in 51 days.
"That performance today was as good as I've seen all year," Arizona State coach Pat Murphy said. "I didn't expect it, but I'm not surprised by it."
"It was recommended that he didn't pitch until July. He just was determined to help this team," Murphy said.
In addition to the hand injury, Spence was hit in the face by a line drive and fought a back injury this season.
"The worst-case scenario was mid-June. ... It feels good now," Spence said. "They're a good-hitting lineup. I was able to get strike one."
Kipnis, the Pacific-10 player of the year, singled off Clemson starter Chris Dwyer (5-6) to drive in the first two runs in the Sun Devils' five-run fifth. Kole Calhoun had a two-run double and Matt Newman had a run-scoring double in the inning.
"This isn't your normal powerhouse team," Kipnis said. "We have a bunch of freshmen who don't know you are supposed to lose more games than we have this year. We're growing playoff beards with freshmen who don't have any facial hair."
Newman had another RBI double in Arizona State's three-run ninth for an 8-1 lead. Jeff Schaus' 13th homer gave Clemson (44-21) a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning. He was the first runner Spence allowed.
Arizona State (48-12) will make its 21st College World Series appearance, tied with Southern California for third in NCAA history.
Arizona State has won five titles, tied with LSU for third.
Kipnis is 9 for 21 with six RBIs and four stolen bases as Arizona State has won all five of its postseason games while hosting regional and super regional tournaments as the No. 5 national seed.
Cleanup hitter Calhoun is 8 for 21 with eight RBIs and four homers in the postseason.
Arizona State, which entered super regional play with the best ERA (2.79) in college baseball, saw its ERA fall to 2.76.
Spence gave up a one-out single to Wilson Boyd in the fifth inning and a two-out walk to Kyle Parker in the seventh before Clemson scored on two singles and a defensive indifference in the ninth.
"Their kid did a great job," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "He threw all his pitches for strikes. He kept us off-balance. We didn't get many good swings the first half of the game."
Arizona State will play No. 7 North Carolina in a first-round game at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. The Tar Heels are the No. 4 national seed.
It will be the only matchup of national seeds in the first round of the double-elimination event, which begins Saturday.
Dwyer, who struck out 13 to beat Oklahoma State in a regional elimination game, gave up two hits, both singles, in four shutout innings before Arizona State scored five runs in the fifth inning.
Johnny Ruettiger singled and stole second before Zack MacPhee walked. The runners moved up on a sacrifice bunt and Kipnis lined a single to center to drive in two. He has 71 RBIs.
Dwyer had Kipnis picked off but threw wildly to first as Kipnis reached third. Carlos Ramirez walked before Calhoun doubled for a 4-1 lead.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press