May 25, 2014
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Georgia Tech scored the game’s final six runs, rallying from a 4-3 deficit in the seventh inning to beat Maryland, 9-4, and win the 2014 ACC Baseball Championship Sunday at NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro, N.C.
The Yellow Jackets (36-25), who have won the ACC title in two of the past three years, claimed their ninth tournament championship to tie Clemson for the most. Head coach Danny Hall improved to 5-1 in the ACC title game and his five titles are second-most of any coach in league history.
“I tip my cap (to my team) for an awesome run of coming in as a nine-seed, having to go into a play-in game, and that game could have gone either way, but we fought our way in to beat Wake,” said Hall. “Then we went on a great run. Duke beat us, but I think that can happen any place, any time in this league. The 10 teams that made it here are 10 great teams. Getting into the championship round is the hardest thing. Once you get there, if you play well you’ve got a chance to win and they played their hearts out the whole week from pitching, to playing defense, to getting timely hits. We sit here today as the ACC Champions. So very proud of them.”
Tech completed an impressive 4-1 week in Greensboro, winning a play-in game Tuesday over Wake Forest, then going 2-1 in pool play and becoming the first-ever ninth-seed to earn a berth in the title game. In 2012, the Jackets were the first-ever eighth-seed to win it, going 4-0, in Greensboro.
Senior pitcher Dusty Isaacs, who did not pitch in the championship game but recorded two saves and a win in three appearances (8.1 innings) of scoreless work, was named the ACC Championship Most Valuable Player. Junior CF Daniel Spingola and senior 2B Mott Hyde, along with Isaacs, were named to the All-Championship Team.
The 3-4-5 hitters in the Jackets’ lineup were a combined 10-for-13, with Matt Gonzalez going 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles and three runs. A.J. Murray and Thomas Smith each had three hits, while Murray drove in three runs. Tech ripped seven doubles in the game to match its season high.
After the Jackets tied the game at 4-4 on Mitch Earnest’s sacrifice fly in the sixth, the Ramblin’ Wreck kept the pressure on in the seventh as Spingola led off with a double to left. Gonzalez dropped a bunt that went for a single and the pitcher air-mailed the throw to first, allowing Spingola to trot home for the lead and Gonzalez to move to second.
Smith bunted him over, Murray walked and a wild pitch put two in scoring position for Connor Justus, who ripped a two-run single up the middle to pad the lead to 7-4.
“We still had plenty of time in the game to score some runs and it shows that our team put forth effort and made the come back and answer when we needed to,” said Smith of the 4-3 deficit.
Gonzalez added an RBI double in the ninth and Murray followed later in the inning with an RBI single to cap the scoring.
The backend of Tech’s bullpen of senior Jonathan Roberts, freshman Ben Parr and sophomore Sam Clay pitched shutout frames in the seventh, eighth and ninth to slam the door on the sixth-seeded Terrapins (36-21), who cut Tech’s lead to 3-2 in the fourth and plated two runs for a 4-3 lead in the sixth.
Roberts registered his first win (1-2) as he pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh. Parr held the lead with a pair of strikeouts in the eighth and Clay rolled a timely 4-6-3 double play and got Joey Cuas swinging for the game’s final out.
The Yellow Jacket went to work with two outs in the first inning to grab a quick 2-0 lead. Gonzalez’s single to right kept the inning alive and Smith made the Terrapins pay by pounding an RBI double off the wall in left. Murray followed with an RBI single.
Blake Schmit’s lead-off home run in the second cut the margin in half, but Murray delivered an RBI single in fourth as Tech regained a 3-1 lead. Maryland cut to 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth on Anthony Papio’s RBI single and Papio came back to tie it with a single in the sixth. The first of two double plays turned by the Jackets minimized Maryland’s damage to just two runs in the sixth, but gave the Terrapins their only lead.
Tech played error-free defensively over five games in Greensboro and turned nine double plays. For the season, the team’s 73 double plays lead the NCAA and are a school record.
The ACC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament is awarded to the Yellow Jackets, who learn their postseason fate when the tournament field is announced at 12 p.m. on Monday on ESPNU. This will mark the program’s 30th NCAA tournament berth and its 28th in the past 30 years.