Clemson shocks Arizona State, will face Oklahoma today

Arizona State's Johnny Ruettiger is picked off at first base by Clemson's Richie Shaffer (left) in the second inning Monday in Omaha, Neb.

OMAHA, Neb. -- Clemson wasn't supposed to be here. Once here, Clemson wasn't supposed to beat the No. 1 overall seed.

Hey, by now, the supposed outcomes are out the window with this Tigers team.

On the heels of 14 hits -- all singles -- Clemson knocked around Arizona State and previously unbeaten ace Seth Blair in a 6-3 victory Monday afternoon at Rosenblatt Stadium in the teams' long-awaited College World Series opener.

"We played a very good ballgame today," Tigers coach Jack Leggett said. "I thought we were a complete team from start to finish."

The Tigers (44-23) move on to play Oklahoma (50-16) at 9 p.m. today in the winners' bracket. The loss for Arizona State, just its ninth of the year, puts the favorite on the verge of elimination. The Sun Devils (52-9) play South Carolina today in the losers' bracket.

Clemson entered as the only No. 2 regional seed in the eight-team CWS field. In short, the Tigers weren't expected to win. But no one told the Tigers.

"It proves we can play against anybody," Clemson second baseman Mike Freeman said. "We wanted to say, 'Just because we're the last seed here, you're not to be overlooked.'

"It's nice to go out there and prove we belong."

Belong? Clemson was the aggressor from the get-go, despite the 10:22 a.m. local start after the game was pushed from Sunday night to Monday morning because of bad weather.

"I think we had the right approach," Leggett said. "We were ready to play from the very beginning."

The Tigers took advantage of a shaky Blair, who was 12-0 entering the game. Blair walked a season-high five batters. Arizona State had a reliever up in the bullpen in the second after Clemson had the bases loaded in the first and second innings.

The Tigers scored just two runs in those innings, but Blair's pitch count ballooned and they got to him for three more runs in the fifth.

Blair appeared to be overthrowing quite often against Clemson's aggressiveness. He looked to struggle specifically against its left-handed batters.

No Clemson player had any more than one RBI, but five Tigers -- Chris Epps, Freeman, John Hinson, Richie Shaffer and Wilson Boyd -- had two hits (singles, of course). All but Shaffer hit left-handed.

"We knew he was good," Freeman said, "but that didn't change our approach. We don't get intimidated against anyone."

Clemson starter Casey Harman and reliever Alex Frederick combined to keep the Sun Devils, batting .338 as a team coming in, mostly in check.

Harman gave Clemson six innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits. But the Sun Devils never squared up many pitches against the left-hander, who earned his eighth win of the season.

He wobbled some after coming out for the seventh, leaving Frederick to face a bases-loaded, nobody-out mess. The junior got through it, though, with only one run coming in to keep it a 6-3 Tigers lead.

The only run scored on a groundout.

Frederick went on to pitch the final three innings, holding Arizona State off the board and keeping the Tigers from burning up their bullpen. That's key since Clemson has to play two games in two days, because of the weather.

Also, the Tigers' bullpen hadn't exactly been the strongest part of the team lately.

"It's big that Casey got us deep into the game," Leggett said. "Without question, it helps that we only used two guys up, because we don't have that extra day's rest like everybody else does."

Clemson gathered for batting practice at Creighton Univer-sity at 7:30 a.m. Monday, getting over to Rosenblatt Stadium at 8:30 a.m. An early day, for sure, but a good one for the underdog.

Harman admitted it was "stressful" Sunday, not knowing when the team would finally play its first game. It seemed to work out OK once the Tigers did get around to it.

"We had to have more energy than they did," Harman said.

E--Miller, Marrero, Barnes. DP--Clemson 2, Arizona State 2. LOB--Clemson 10, Arizona State 7. 2B--Ra. Torrez. SF--Barnes. SB--Epps, Schaus. CS--Hinson.

WP--Harman. BK--Blair, Rodgers.

Time--3:14. Att: 14,198.

Reach Travis Haney at thaney@postandcourier.com.