Originally created 06/04/06

Clemson pitches shutout



CLEMSON, S.C. - Sean Clark, his economics degree from Clemson University in hand, has gone on several interviews looking for a job in the financial services industry.

He may want to put that search on hold.

Clark, who had pitched only 10 1/3 innings all year before the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, tossed his second gem in a week, holding North Carolina Asheville to three hits in Clemson's 3-0 victory at the NCAA tournament Saturday.

Because the game was suspended after just a half inning on Friday night, both teams are back in action later. The Bulldogs (28-34) will try to keep their first NCAA tournament trip going against Mississippi State. The Tigers (48-14), the NCAA tournament's overall No. 1 seed, face Elon in the nightcap.

Clark was back in the rotation - way back - and wasn't even supposed to go the conference tournament. But an injury to outfielder Travis Storrer brought Clark a spot. And he made the most of it, handcuffing North Carolina State on four hits and a run over eight innings as the Tigers won the tournament title.

Six days later, Clark was called on again when the NCAA game was rain delayed from Friday night to Saturday after only a half inning. Clark was more than up to the task.

And those resumes that have gone out?

"This may change those plans," Clark said, smiling.

Although he has graduated, Clark has a year of eligibility remaining. He could fit in nicely next season on a staff that's going to lose starters Josh Cribb and, possibly, Stephen Faris in the Major League Baseball draft. "I don't know," Clark said. "I guess I'll have to talk to coach about that after the season."

Clark wasn't the only surprise for the Tigers. Shortstop Stan Widmann hit his first homer of the season and had two of Clemson's three extra-base hits.

Clark found out Friday night after the game was called that he would get another chance on the mound when things resumed. Clemson coach Jack Leggett thought starter Jason Berken's 21 pitches and then waiting through a rainy night was enough to call for Clark.

Just like the ACC tournament, Clark was dominant. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and had six strikeouts. Both times, he had two runners on base, including the ninth, and he pitched out of it.

In the final inning, Kyle Smith's single to right put runners on first and second for the Bulldogs. But after a visit from pitching coach Kevin O'Sullivan, Clark (2-0) battled back to force John Whited into a game-ending fly ball to right.

Widmann was the offensive star for the Tigers with his two-run homer in the second that was the sophomore's first of 2006. His shot to right center landed in front of the scoreboard and just beyond a banner on the Doug Kingsmore Stadium fencing honoring former Clemson star shortstop - and current San Diego Padre - Khalil Greene.

Widmann's teammates rushed him when he crossed the plate, high-fiving and celebrating the blast.

"I guess I threw a ball that got too much of the plate," North Carolina Asheville start Chris Nigro said of Widmann's homer.

Widmann added a double in the seventh.

Tyler Colvin's slow chopper up the middle brought in Herman Demmink with Clemson's final run.

North Carolina Asheville starter Chris Nigro (5-11) also pitched well, holding the Tigers to six hits in eight innings.

Bulldogs coach Willie Stewart said Nigro and his team battled hard against the NCAA tournament favorite. Nigro "made one mistake and Clemson made us pay for it," Stewart said.

It was Clark, though, who made UNC Asheville's first NCAA game a difficult one.

"He probably wasn't getting as many opportunities before," Leggett said. "But he is taking advantage of it now."