Wednesday, June 14, 2000 • Attendance: 8,000 • Box score
The wheels were turning in the bottom of the ninth inning, and because Rick Haydel's legs were churning fast enough to score from first base on a bunt and a wild throw, Louisiana-Lafayette was able to survive at the College World Series.
Steven Feehan's safety-squeeze bunt produced the tying and winning runs in a thrilling 5-4 victory Wednesday before 8,000 a Bracket One elimination game with Clemson at Rosenblatt Stadium.
A wild throw by Clemson pitcher Ryan Mottl allowed the winning run to score with one out.
Clemson right fielder Justin Singleton picked up the ball in foul territory about 25 feet past first base and threw a strike to the plate, but Haydel slid toward the back portion of home plate to beat the tag of Tigers catcher Brian Ellis and touch off a wild celebration.
"When Feehan got the bunt down, my job is to hustle down to second," Haydel said. "I saw the ball get away so I knew I was going to take third. I kind of looked back over my shoulder and saw the ball had gotten away a little more than I thought, so I knew Coach (Wade) Simoneaux would send me. I ran as hard as I could to get home."
The celebration got a little out of hand and turned into a shoving match between the teams near home plate. Television replays showed Clemson left fielder Casey Stone charging into the back of UL-Lafayette's Ryan Gill, who was talking and gesturing to Singleton.
No punches appeared to be thrown as coaches from each team kept matters from escalating.
"I know they don't play that way and we don't play that way," Ragin' Cajuns Coach Tony Robichaux said. "It was just the emotion of the game."
UL - Lafayette (49-19) stays alive in Bracket One and plays Stanford, which beat the Cajuns 6-4 Friday in a first-round game.
Before the ninth, though, it appeared the Cajuns had missed their chance. Clemson (51-18) had scored four runs in the top of the seventh -- including the go-ahead runs on Khalil Greene's two-run double -- to erase UL-Lafayette's 3-0 lead.
"We had trouble hitting with men on base again," Clemson Coach Jack Leggett said. "We had plenty of opportunities to open the game up and couldn't get it done. We had a good four-run inning there, but I had hoped to get another run or two."
UL-Lafayette used back-to-back homers from Will Hawkins and Tommy Clark in the fourth inning to jump in front, then Feehan successfully stole home in the fifth. Singleton reached over the wall to pluck away two other potential Ragin' Cajun homers.
The Cajuns had their hearts broken again in the bottom of the eighth, when Clark's drive to left center -- a home run if not for the 22 mph wind blowing towards right center -- was caught by center fielder Patrick Boyd. Pitcher Trey Bullinger (3-0) then worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the ninth by striking out Mike Calitri, setting the stage for one final shot for UL-Lafayette.
"We thought if could tie it, we could win it, " Robichaux said. "Anything after that would be extra for us. We were playing for the tie first."
Jarvis Larry drew a leadoff walk, then pinch-hitter Neil Simoneaux put down a sacrifice bunt. Clemson had closer Nick Glaser and Mottl -- its No. 1 starter -- in the bullpen. Leggett called on Mottl, who made his second relief appearance of the year.
"He's our most experienced guy, and we thought maybe he could get his fosh (changeup) going and he might have an opportunity to close the door," Leggett said.
Haydel lined Mottl's first pitch to left for a hit, a ball that was hit so hard that Larry had to hold at third. That brought up Feehan with runners on the corners.
"I don't like the squeeze in that situation, because you take the bat out of Steven's hands if it's a bad pitch," Robichaux said. "The safety squeeze, or the push bunt, I like because Steven now controls what he wants to do. If it's a ball, he pulls back. If it's a decent pitch, he can go to work. What you get out of it is enormous. You're going to get a run to tie game and you put the winning run on second. That's kind of the way we play."
Feehan pushed his bunt up the first-base line, and Mottl made an off-balance throw as second baseman Ryan Riley was late covering first.
"I just tried to get it in the right spot, and it didn't roll foul, and I was fortunate for that," Feehan said. "There was one bad throw and Rick did a great job going all the way from first base to score."
Singleton picked up the ball in foul territory and got his throw home before Haydel arrived.
"I saw the bunt go down, and like I do on every play, I backed up first base," Singleton said. "I saw the ball come out of the infield and I called Riley off and told him I could get the ball and I made a strong throw to the plate and I thought we had him. Apparently we didn't."
-- Rob White