June 3, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Sophomore righty Alex Cruz pitched a two-hit shutout over a career-long six innings, classmate Zane Evans sealed the deal with three strong innings and No. 24 Georgia Tech staved off elimination in the Gainesville Regional with a 3-0 win over College of Charleston Sunday at McKethan Stadium.
A ball lost in sun allowed Tech to break the scoreless tie in the sixth inning, and freshman Connor Lynch added insurance with his first career home run – a two-run shot in the ninth – as Tech posted its fifth shutout of the season.
“Runs were very hard to come by and Cruz did a tremendous job,” said head coach Danny Hall. “He didn’t give up any runs and pitched out of trouble when he needed to. We got six innings out of him, he kept his pitch count down and we were able to go to Zane for the last three. Alex was big, and we needed him to be big because runs were hard to come by.”
Tech advances to an NCAA Regional Final for the fifth consecutive season, and will need to beat top-ranked Florida twice to advance to the Super Regional. Tonight’s game is set for 6 p.m. on ESPN3, with an if-necessary game slated for Monday night at 7 p.m.
With Cruz and Charleston starter Josh Renfro locked in a 0-0 stalemate through five innings, Sam Dove got the sixth started with a one-out single, and was replaced on the bases with a fielder’s choice from Brandon Thomas. Davies was walked and Renfro appeared out of the jam when Evans lifted a high fly to left-center. But Marty Gantt lost the ball in the sky, and it fell for an RBI double – the game’s first run.
“I just wanted to help out my team as much as I could, make them (Charleston) swing the bat,” said Cruz. “I’ve got seven guys behind me that can all play tremendous defense. They swing the bat a lot and try and put a lot of balls in play, so I just tried to go after them as much as I could, and keep the pitch count down by forcing contact.”
The sun-aided run would be all Cruz, and Evans needed, to keep the Jackets alive. After making 29 appearances this season in relief, Cruz (8-3) lasted a career-long six innings in his first career start and tossed a two-hit gem with two walks and three strikeouts for his eighth win.
He turned the 1-0 lead over to the bullpen in the seventh, and Evans took it from there by allowing just one Cougar to reach base (a two-out single in the ninth) to nail down his team-leading seventh save. That single by Rob Harding snapped a streak of seven-consecutive no-hit innings tossed by Evans over three appearances.
Lynch provided a cushion in the ninth, blasting a two-run home run down the left-field line with no outs, after Thomas Smith drew a lead-off walk. For Lynch, it was his first career homer, and the 10th hit by the Jackets since the ACC Tournament began last Wednesday.
Renfro (6-8) was on the hook for the tough-luck loss that eliminated the Cougars from the Gainesville Regional. He allowed just one run on six hits with five strikeouts in 7 1 /3 innings.
Dove and Brandon Thomas each had two hits, as Tech out-hit Charleston, 8-3. The Jackets left 11 runners on base in the game.
**Tech improved to 65-54 all-time in NCAA Tournament action, including a 61-51 record in the Regional/Super Regional round. The Jackets are now 37-37 in NCAA games away from Russ Chandler Stadium.
**The shutout for Tech was its fifth of the season, and first in NCAA Tournament play since a 10-0 win over Mercer in 2010. It stands as Tech’s 13th all-time shutout in NCAA play.
**The Jackets have reached the Regional Final in five consecutive seasons, and in eight consecutive tournament appearances over the last nine years (missed NCAA tournament in 2007). Tech has not won a regional since 2006.
**It was the first career start for sophomore Alex Cruz, and his team-leading 30th appearance of the season. The sophomore righty is now 8-3 and lowered his ERA to a team-leading 1.83.
**Over the last six appearances on the mound by sophomore RHP Zane Evans, the two-way sophomore has allowed just three hits and no runs in 9 2/3 innings. He’s nailed down four saves in that span – all in crucial late-season victories. He pitched the final two outs in a 5-4, 10-inning, win at No. 22 Virginia (May 13), went 1 1/3 innings with no hits to nail down the save in the 2-1 regular-season-finale win over No. 21 Miami, pitched three innings of no-hit ball for the save in the ACC Championship game win over No. 21 Miami and three more strong innings versus Charleston.
**Evans is on the national watch list for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award.
**Tech improved to 11-0 in the all-time series versus the College of Charleston, including a 4-0 record in NCAA Tournament play.
**The Jackets improved to 6-4 in their last 10 NCAA Tournament elimination games.
**Junior LF Brandon Thomas is hitting .583 (7-for-12) in the Gainesville Regional, which leads the four-team field. Thomas has three RBI, with three runs, a homer and two walks.