Feltes Comes Through Again

May 31, 2008

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by Jack Wilkinson

Impossible? Hardly, not the way Brad Feltes has been playing, not with the faith Danny Hall has in his third baseman. For a career .256 hitter, however, this seemed Mission Improbable. As in…

Good evening, Mr. Feltes. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Greet the Lipscomb receiver rudely, belt a two-out, two-run double in the top of the eighth inning, regain the lead and momentum for Georgia Tech, and put the Jackets back in command of this weekend’s NCAA Regional at Foley Field.

That’s precisely what Feltes did. Not that his coach was surprised.

“I felt real good when Feltes came to the plate. There’s not a guy I’d rather see up there than him,” Hall said, after Feltes’ double off Kyle Tognazzini drove in two runs, broke a 3-3 tie and propelled Tech to a 6-3 victory Saturday night. “He’s been a clutch hitter all season.”

Never more so than Saturday. Tech (41-19) is the only unbeaten left here, where on Sunday night the No. 2 seeded Jackets will meet the winner of this afternoon’s Georgia-Lipscomb elimination game. For that, Hall can thank several players:

Catcher Jason Haniger, who crushed a mammoth homer for the second consecutive night. This one, a three-run blast, came with two outs in the second inning and gave Tech a 3-0 lead that stood up until the fifth inning. In his last 16 games, Haniger is hitting .429 with six homers, six doubles and 18 RBI.

Deck McGuire, the right-handed freshman who started and gave Hall 6-2/3rd strong innings before leaving with the game tied 3-3. After allowing a leadoff double in the seventh, McGuire struck out the next two Bisons batters before reliever Taylor Wood got Blake Bratcher looking.

Charlie Blackmon, the senior leadoff man, extended his hitting streak to 10 games and continued his scintillating post-season. After a leadoff single to start the game, his hard-hit infield single gave Tech a vital ninth-inning insurance run and gives Blackmon a post-season average of .591 (13-for-22) that even Chipper Jones would envy. Blackmon also made a sensational catch in the ninth inning to save a run and thwart a rally.

But this night belonged to Feltes, the senior third baseman from Alpharetta who starred at Chattahoochee High and glistened here with his glove Friday and bat Saturday. His seven assists in Friday’s win over Louisville included a sensational short-hop scoop and throw home that nailed Jeff Arnold and kept the Cardinals scoreless in the fifth.

Fine afield again Saturday, Feltes was great at the plate. With one out in the second, he was hit by a pitch and, after Thomas Nichols singled, scored on Haniger’s 10th homer of the season. After singling in the fourth, Feltes came up with two outs in the seventh, Luke Murton on second, Derek Dietrich on first and Tognazzini coming out of the Lipscomb bullpen.

“I was just trying to take the first pitch and get a good look,” Feltes said. “When he threw strike one, I didn’t want to get [far] behind in the count. I hit it in the gap. That was about it.”

His gap-double to right-center scored Murton and Dietrich, gave Tech the lead and his bullpen — Wood, and closer Brad Rulon — some wiggle room. “As a kid, you dreamed of having those situations with a bat,” said Feltes. “To pick up your teammates.”

“Brad’s played great,” Hall said. “In the field, at the plate. His defense has been great.

“I think he’s a great competitor,” said the coach. “This is the first year he’s had an opportunity to play every day. He’s waited his time. Now, it’s his time. He’s making every minute count.”

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