Co-Champs!

May 22, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Last Saturday night, Georgia Tech showed why you have to play all 27 outs, rallying for five ninth-inning runs to top North Carolina for an improbable 9-8 win.

Last night they showed why you play every game on your schedule.

The Yellow Jackets topped Virginia Tech, 5-3 at English Field, to take the series from the Hokies. A few minutes later, the Jackets found that they had earned a share of the top spot in the ACC Coastal Division, as North Carolina edged Virginia, 3-2 at Boshamer Stadium, taking their second straight one-run decision completing a series sweep of the nation’s top-ranked team.

“We took care of business in Blacksburg this weekend,” said shortstop Jacob Esch, who had two hits, including his sixth homer of the season, and scored three of the team’s five runs on Saturday. “The last thing anybody expected was for Carolina to sweep Virginia. Nothing against North Carolina but Virginia is a solid team.”

The last thing just about anyone expected was for the Yellow Jackets (39-17, 22-8) to be even with the Cavaliers (45-9, 22-8), as the teams hit the tape at the end of the regular season. Not after losing nine players in the 2010 Major League Baseball June Draft and with a roster that included 17 freshmen, five of them starting regularly.

“It is satisfying because of everybody we lost,” said Head Coach Danny Hall. “These guys, even though they were young, they played hard all year. I think our coaching staff did a great job of coaching them all year, getting them ready and they’ve had a great year.

“I felt all along we had good pitching and at the end of the day, if you pitch well you have a chance to win,” Hall added. “So I was confident that we’d pitch it okay. Going into the season, I wasn’t sure what our offense would look like. Our offense has hung in there and helped us win a lot of games.”

The offense on Saturday revolved around Esch, who homered in the first inning, then, after the Hokies tied the score in their half of the first, scored on a Jake Davies sacrifice fly in the third. Esch would score again as part of a three-run fourth, which featured an RBI single by Matt Skole and a two-run double by Davies, to make it 5-1.

That would be enough for Buck Farmer (10-2), who won his third straight start and his ACC-high eighth in conference play this the season. Farmer allowed three runs and eight hits over seven, striking out five and walking only one.

“It felt great,” said Farmer, who was 5-1 last season. “I was doing it for the guys especially. Tying the school-record for most wins as a Georgia Tech team in the ACC. Just going out there and helping my team.”

Luke Bard came in and slammed the door, earning his eighth save by allowing only one hit and striking out five of the six outs he recorded.

The next step for the Yellow Jackets is the ACC Tournament, which begins Wednesday in Durham. They believe they can continue the roll they’re on.

At this point, they believe they can do just about anything.

“I think it shows that we have a lot of grit and a lot of ability to battle through our immaturity,” Esch said. “We beat some good teams and lost to some bad teams but that’s what you get with freshmen. Hopefully we can get on a roll here and get some people to start believing.”

“I think we just need to keep playing good defense, keep hitting the ball like we have been,” added Farmer. “We average a decent amount of hits every game. Our biggest thing is the run production because our starting rotation and our defense, is probably hands down the best in the ACC. We’ve just got to keep hitting the baseball.”

Hall’s not a big believer in momentum carry-over, but does believe his team is in a good position.

“It gives us momentum going in but momentum is game to game,” he said. “We’re looking forward to going there. There are eight really good teams that deserve to be there. We’re going to have to play good in three or four games to win the ACC Tournament.”

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