AUBURN, Al (WSFA) – Down by a run, facing elimination and down to his last strike, Auburn's Creede Simpson crushed a 1-2 Tomas Cruz pitch over the green monster in left-center to send Auburn to an 11-10 win over Clemson and force a winner-take-all regional finale on Monday night at 6pm at Plainsman Park.
"I was trying to get the barrel on the ball. I knew I had a great opportunity, and I did not want to waste it," Simpson said. "Once I saw it in the air, I knew it had a good chance to go over. It was an awesome feeling."
Simpson, who had entered the game in the bottom as a defensive substitution for Trent Mummey in the bottom of the seventh, laced his fifth home run of the year in his first at bat of the regional, sending the crowd of 3,326 into a frenzy and giving the nation's top home run hitting team at least one more day in its magical season.
"That was an amazing game when you start breaking it down and look at all the things that happened over the course of the game," Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said. "Somehow our guys kept battling and found a way to win…Creede steps up for us and delivered a huge home run. The crowd was absolutely incredible. When the fans were on their feet screaming, it was the loudest I've ever heard that stadium."
Austin Hubbard (6-2) picked up the win out of the bullpen for Auburn (43-20), throwing the final 4 2/3 innings and keeping Clemson to five runs (three earned) on eight hits and two walks, striking out three, just enough for Auburn to pick up its 10th one-run victory of the season.
"That was the highlight of my baseball career, with the great crowd and Creede's home run, the way that we battled," Hubbard said. "This was a huge win against an unbelievable baseball team. They are going to come back tomorrow and try to do what we did today. We got to celebrate a little in the locker room tonight, then go home, get some sleep and find a way to win another game."
Cruz (3-3) took the loss for Clemson, allowing two inherited runners and three runners of his own to score in 2 1/3 innings on four hits, two walks and two strike outs.
Down 9-8 heading to the top of the ninth, Cruz retired the first two hitters he faced before Justin Bryant (1-for-2, 3 BB) worked a four-pitch walk and Justin Fradejas (3-for-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI) lofted one that just tipped off the end of Clemson second baseman Mike Freeman's glove to put runners on the corners. That's when Simpson stepped to the plate. After watching Cruz push one wide for a ball and then buzzing one in for a called strike, Simpson fouled one off before driving the ball over the wall for what proved to be the game winning hit for the local product out of Auburn High School.
Clemson (40-22) did not go down without a fight as its first two hitters in the bottom of the ninth both singled off Hubbard and then moved up 90 feet on a Spencer Kieboom (1-for-3, 2B, R, RBI) sacrifice bunt. Hubbard then uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Richie Shaffer (1-for-5, 2 R) to race home with Clemson's 10th run, just sliding in under Hubbard's tag.
Clemson would put the winning run on first as Freeman (3-for-4, 2B, 2 R,RBI) drew a two-out walk but Hubbard got Jeff Schaus (1-for-5, RBI) to pop up the first pitch to Justin Hargett at second, sealing the win for Auburn (43-20).
Auburn took a 2-0 lead in the first as Brian Fletcher (3-for-5, 2B, HR,2 R, 3 RBI) doubled in Trent Mummy (2-for-4, 2 2B, 2 R) and then scored on Hunter Morris' (3-for-5, 2 R) single.
Clemson, which was the home team for the game, got a run back in the bottom of the third, capitalizing on an errant throw by Bryant on Freeman's ball to the right side of the infield to make it 2-1.
Auburn scored three times in the fifth to go up 5-1 as Fleta two-run home run and Ryan Jenkins (0-for-2) doubled in Morris. The home run was the 49th of Fletcher's career, tying him with Frank Thomas for third on the Auburn all-time home run list.
Clemson responded to Auburn's three runs with a seven-run bottom half, knocking Auburn starter Slade Smith from the game with three runs in the inning and a man on. John Hinson (3-for-5, HR, 2 RBI) greeted Hubbard with a first pitch, two-run home run that put Clemson ahead, 6-5, and then scored two more unearned runs when Shaffer reached on an error and scored on Kieboom's double and then Kieboom was knocked in by Addison Johnson (2-for-6, R, RBI) to go up 8-5.
Auburn got a run back in the sixth when Fradejas lofted his second home run of the regional over the wall in left and then scored twice more when Cruz issued a bases-loaded walk to Bryan and a Fradejas RBI single back up the middle that tied the game at 8-8.
Clemson regained the lead at 9-8 off of Hubbard in the bottom of the seventh when Freeman doubled in Wilson Boyd (1-for-3, 2 BB), who had walked to lead off the inning.
The win was Auburn's first of the season when going to the ninth trailing after being 0-16 throughout the first 62 games of the season.Walk-up ticket sales are all that remain for Monday's 6pm finale and will go on sale beginning at 8am CT at the Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum Ticket Office on Monday morning.
Auburn made it to the Sunday evening game by defeating Southern Miss, 17-8, on Sunday afternoon.
Press release courtesy of Auburn University Sports