May 19, 2012
ATLANTA – Freshman righty Cole Pitts fired seven two-hit innings and sophomore Daniel Palka launched a home run in the sixth to give Georgia Tech the lead for good as the Yellow Jackets clinched the final spot in the ACC Tournament with a 2-1 win over No. 21 Miami in the regular-season finale Saturday Russ Chandler Stadium.
The victory allowed Tech to end the regular season with a 32-24 overall record, 12-18 in the ACC, and clinch a spot in the ACC Tournament for a 33rd consecutive season. The Jackets, who have been to every ACC Tournament since joining the league, will face top-seeded Florida State next week in Greensboro.
Stay tuned to RamblinWreck.com as the ACC announces game times later Saturday evening.
Pitts allowed just two hits, a run, with five strikeouts and a walk in his longest outing of the season, and watched from the dugout as Alex Cruz and Zane Evans closed out the rookie’s fifth win (5-4). Cruz recorded two outs in the eighth, and Evans got the last four outs in succession to nail down his fifth save.
It was a nerve-wracking finish to the season for Tech, who needed a win – or a loss by Virginia Tech at North Carolina Saturday – to clinch the final tournament spot. Miami scored first, and Tech stormed back to get pair of solo home runs from Jake Davies and Palka to account for its scoring.
“The pressure’s been on us for a long time,” said head coach Danny Hall. “We dug ourselves a big hole early in the ACC and we’ve come back, and now we have a chance to keep playing.”
Pitts was in command from the start, but the Hurricanes scratched across their only run in the second when Michael Broad’s double to left drove in Rony Rodriguez for the 1-0 lead.
“He pitched outstanding in the most pressure-packed game of the year,” said Hall. “He was very good today. We hit two home runs, but Cole was the reason we had a chance to win.”
The Jackets answered right back in the home half when Davies smashed a lead-off bomb over the fence in center for the equalizer. The hosts threatened again in the second putting three on after Davies’ homer, but had nothing else to show for it.
Tech put three more on in the third, and two more on in the fourth and came up empty. But Palka, who’s had a flare for the dramatic all season, rocketed a go-ahead blast that landed over the fence in right for the lead.
Four of Palka’s five game-winning RBI this season have come in the last month.
Miami starter Eric Whaley worked six innings, allowed nine hits and two runs with seven strikeouts but was hung the loss (3-4). Broad and Brad Fieger had Miami’s only two hits.
Tech’s final seven games of the regular season have each been one- or two-run games — the Jackets are 2-5 in those games and have held leads in three of the five narrow setbacks.