May 14, 2011
ATLANTA – Freshman Daniel Palka’s walk-off single capped a five-run ninth inning rally to lift No. 9 Georgia Tech (36-15, 19-7 ACC) to a 9-8 win over North Carolina (40-11, 17-9 ACC), also ranked as high as ninth, Saturday night at Russ Chandler Stadium. The win evened the series and sets up a rubber-match on Sunday.
Palka’s game-winning single to right field was a perfect ending to his outstanding game, as the Lyman, S.C. native went 4-for-5 with a home run and two RBI.
His solo home run to right field an inning earlier started the rally after the Jackets fell behind by an 8-3 score on a two-run shot to right-center by North Carolina’s Jesse Wierzbicki in the seventh frame.
Tech went on to load the bases in the ninth on a single by freshman Zane Evans, a double by freshman Kyle Wren and a walk issued to junior Jacob Esch by Carolina reliever Michael Morin. After Morin was replaced by R. C. Orlan, junior Jake Davies came through with a huge single to centerfield that scored all three runs and cut the lead to 8-7. Davies advanced to second base on a fielding error by UNC’s Ben Bunting before Connor Winn came in to pinch run.
“We kind of debated whether we would pinch hit for him [Davies] but I said that those are our two horses right there in the middle and you hope that one of them comes through,” said head coach Danny Hall referring to Davies and Matt Skole. “Jake is a great competitor, I never rule him out, and he got a big hit for us when we needed it.”
Freshman Mott Hyde stepped up on the next at-bat and singled through the left side to score Winn and tie the game, before Palka sent the first pitch he saw from Tar Heel pitcher Greg Holt to right field, scoring Sam Dove for the win.
“Most of the night I had been taking the first pitch, so I figured they were going to try to sneak a fastball in there and that I was going to take it again,” Palka said. “I was just sitting there waiting on it and made sure I hit it good.”
The win for Georgia Tech was its first of the season when trailing after six innings. The Jackets entered the game with an 0-11 record in such games. It was also the 299th career ACC victory for head coach Danny Hall.
Freshman pitcher DeAndre Smelter (2-0) earned the win on the mound after holding North Carolina to just one hit in two innings of relief. Smelter made an incredible leaping grab and throw on a high chopper back to the mound with two outs in the ninth to strand two Tar Heel runners. The right-hander has yet to allow a run in 11 innings of relief this season.
Holt (6-1) was credited with his first loss of the season.
After falling behind 3-1 early in the game, the Jackets rallied to tie the game at 3-3 with a solo run in both the third and the fourth inning. Junior Matt Skole’s leadoff homer to right field in the third cut the lead to one, before an RBI groundout from Wren to second base scored Brandon Thomas in the fourth.
The Tar Heels would score three runs off of Tech starter Jed Bradley in the sixth inning, however, to break the tie. Tommy Coyle lined a single to centerfield for the go-ahead run, before two more crossed the plate on RBI hits from Jacob Stallings and Holt. Holt started the game at right field before entering to pitch in the ninth.
The series will conclude with a 1 p.m. first pitch in the rubber-match on Sunday. The Jackets will celebrate “Senior Day’ by honoring Zach Brewster, Kevin Jacob, Jeff Ussery and Taylor Wood in a ceremony before the game.