May 21, 2008
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Georgia Tech scored eight runs over the last three innings, including two runs without the benefit of a base hit in the top of the ninth, for a wild and entertaining 10-9 win over NC State in the opening game of the 2008 ACC Baseball Tournament at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
The 3-hour, 50-minute game – the first of four tournament games here Thursday – saw the two teams combine for 28 base hits, 26 strikeouts, 19 runs, eight errors, three wild pitches, two hit batsmen and four lead changes.
Trailing 9-8 in the top of the ninth inning, Georgia Tech scored a pair of runs when three different NC State infielders committed errors on consecutive plays. Chase Burnette and Patrick Long scored the tying and go-ahead runs, respectively, on State’s third straight miscue, this one on a ground ball by Jason Haniger.
Yellow Jacket reliever Brad Rulon sealed the win in the bottom of the ninth inning – but not without suspense. After retiring the first two batters, Rulon nailed Matt Payne with a pitch and walked Jeremy Synan to put the Wolfpack in scoring position with two outs. Rulon, however, got Pat Ferguson to ground out for the game’s final out.
“It was a wild game and an excellent comeback from my team,” Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall said. “I didn’t know if we were ever going to get them out after we took the lead. I thought that Brad Rulon made a great pitch on Pat Ferguson, who we had a hard time with all day, to get that last out.
“There were definitely a lot of momentum swings and I’m just proud of our guys to battle back after getting down like we did.”
The eventful ninth inning came after an equally eventful – and somewhat controversial – eighth frame.
Georgia Tech, trailing 7-3, scored five runs on six base hits to take a temporary 8-7 lead. The Yellow Jackets began the inning with three consecutive singles and eventually took the lead when Luke Murton singled home Jeff Rowland.
“We were thinking that we had to get the first guy on (base),” Murton said. “We knew that in every at-bat we were going to have to battle, and that is what our guys did. We had a lot of good at-bats in a row, which gave us the opportunity to put some runs on the board and take the lead.”
But NC State stormed back to re-take the lead – and see one of its starters ejected in the process. With two outs and the bases loaded, pinch-hitter Nick Stanley doubled to right field off of Jacket reliever Andrew Robinson, scoring Ferguson and Synan. On the same play, State’s Tommy Foschi, attempting to score from first base, caused some controversy when he ran over Tech catcher Jason Haniger. Foschi was out and ejected by home plate umpire Randy Harvey. Haniger was almost out (cold), but recovered to play a key role in the ninth inning.
Georgia Tech jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning, but then had little success against NC State starter Eric Surkamp, who held the Jackets to those two first-inning runs and seven base hits through six innings.
State, meanwhile, pecked away at Georgia Tech starter Deck McGuire with solo runs in the second, third and fourth innings to take a 3-2 lead.
The Wolfpack widened the lead to 6-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning, highlighted by a run-scoring double by Chris Schaeffer that scored Ferguson and a run-scoring single by Foschi.
Tech narrowed the gap to 6-3 with a two-out solo home run by Murton, his 11th on the season, in the top of the seventh inning.
The Wolfpack extended the lead to 7-3 in the bottom of the seventh when Foschi hit a one-out single off of Jacket reliever Brandon Cumpton and scored when Drew Martin laced a double down the left-field line.
Robinson (3-2) earned the victory for Tech and Rulon earned his fifth save of the season. Eryk McConnell (4-2) was credited with the loss.
Four different Yellow Jackets had multi-hit games, paced by Blackmon, who was 3-for-5 with two RBI. Murton had the only home run of the day.
Georgia Tech jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning before the crowd settled into its seats. Jay Dantzler’s double to right-center field scored Charlie Blackmon, who reached with a single and stole second base – his first of two steals on the day. One out later, Dantzler scored for a 2-0 lead when Derek Dietrich’s ground ball was booted by NC State first baseman Pat Ferguson.
The Yellow Jackets had a chance to extend the lead in the top of the second, but stranded runners on second and third base.
State pulled to within 2-1 in the bottom of the second when the Wolfpack pulled off a double steal and Ferguson scored when the throw of Haniger, Tech’s catcher, sailed into center field. McGuire showed poise, however, retiring the next two batters in order to end the inning and preserve the 2-1 lead.
The Wolfpack knotted the score, 2-2, in the bottom of the third with an unearned run off McGuire. Ryan Pond drew a one-out walk and moved to second base on a two-out error by Plagman at first base. The next batter, Ferguson, singled to center field to score Pond.
State took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth when Tommy Foschi led off the inning with a double down the right-field line. Foschi moved to third on a sac bunt and scored on Dallas Poulk’s single up the middle.
Georgia Tech will play No. 1 seed Miami Thursday (5 p.m.) and No. 8 seed Clemson on Saturday (10 a.m.).
The eight-team ACC Tournament includes two groups of four teams. The four teams within each group play a three-game round-robin format with the winner of each group advancing to Sunday’s 1 p.m. championship game.
The entire tournament is being televised by FSN South and SportSouth. Radio coverage for all Georgia Tech games is provided by WREK (91.1 FM). Live statistics are available on RamblinWreck.com
Georgia Tech is 17-10 in the ACC Tournament over the last seven years combined.
The Yellow Jackets have won the ACC title seven times since joining the league prior to the 1980 season – 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 2000, 2003 and 2005.
In 13 ACC Tournament games Tech has played in Jacksonville, eight have been one-run decisions. (Tech is 6-2 in those games)