Tempe, AZ – Mate, I don’t think anyone could have predicted Australian Josh Spence would be in this position. A late season tendon strain in the middle finger of his throwing hand had Arizona State head coach Pat Murphy predicting less than a five percent chance of Spence even throwing out of the bullpen in relief again this season. Then throw in a back injury during a comeback game. But on Sunday night a complete game effort proved to the college baseball world, ASU will be riding to Omaha on the back of two pitching aces this time. A five run fifth inning would be all the Sun Devils needed as the Tigers fell 8-2.
Game two of the Tempe Regional began as a pitchers duel, as Clemson starter Chris Dwyer and Josh Spence both looked great from the mound early. Both seemed to have no problem freezing batters at the plate with multiple K’s throughout the first few innings.
But in the fourth the Tiger would get their first hit and their first run on one swing as left fielder Jeff Schaus reached out and sent a ball over the right field fence for the games first run. Then in the top of the fifth, Dwyer appeared rattled after a possible leg injury. A Jason Kipnis single up the middle would score the first two Sun Devils runs. After a failed pickoff move by Dwyer which allowed Kipnis to reach third, the train had truly come off the track. Matt Vaughn would come on in relief only to quickly give up a Kole Calhoun double to the wall in center field which scored two more. Then another double to Matt Newmn would score Calhoun and give ASU the lead for good.
Three insurance runs for Arizona State in the top of the ninth and a pair of calls to the Clemson bullpen made for a long half inning. This meant that the only mystery left was if Spence would come out to finish off the game. Leadoff hitter Chris Epps singled in an attempt to start a Tiger rally. Later he would score on a Ben Paulsen single, but that would be it for tonight’s “home” team. Josh would record ten K’s, while giving up just four hits and one walk to claim the complete game victory.
The win sends Arizona State to Omaha in search of it’s sixth National Championship, while Clemson will return home and try again next year. Facing ASU next will be North Carolina.