March 18, 2014
KENNESAW, Ga. – Matt Gonzalez led off the ninth inning with a bunt single and eventually scored the go-ahead run from third on a balk as Georgia Tech beat Kennesaw State, 8-7, Tuesday night at Stillwell Stadium in Kennesaw, Ga.
The Yellow Jackets, who have won five of their last six, evened the two-game season series with the Owls and improved to 12-8 overall. KSU, which edged Tech 5-3 in extra innings in late February, slipped to 12-12.
Sophomore lefty Sam Clay retired the final six Owls in order and fanned two over 2.1 innings of relief to pick up his second win (2-0).
Thanks to a strong start from rookie Tanner Shelton, the Jackets were in control and took a 5-1 lead to the bottom of the sixth but that’s when a see-saw final three-and-half innings began. Alex Liquori launched a game-tying grand slam in the sixth, and the Jackets came right back for two in the seventh to regain the lead.
KSU tied it again in the seventh and it remained that way until the ninth. Gonzalez got things started by placing a perfect bunt single up the third base line. He moved to second on Thomas Smith’s sac bunt and to third on a groundout. With pitcher Justin McCalvin working on Brandon Gold, McCalvin was called for a balk that allowed the Jackets to take the lead for good.
“Really impressed by Gonzo with the way he got on base in the ninth,” said head coach Danny Hall. “We got the bunt to get him in scoring position and he ended up scoring on a balk.”
Smith, who missed the final two games of the Miami series with a hamstring injury, returned to the lineup and went 3-for-3 with a run and an RBI. Gonzalez, Gold, Daniel Spingola and Connor Justus each had two of the Jackets’ 13 hits. Gonzalez, Spingola and Justus each doubled.
After Kennesaw pushed a run across in the first inning, the Yellow Jackets stormed back and struck for four in the second thanks to consecutive RBI from Innis, Justus, Arden Pabst and Spingola to take a 4-1 lead. Justus followed the next inning with an RBI single as the Jackets padded their lead.
Shelton exited with a 5-1 lead, but would not factor in the decision as KSU loaded the bases in the sixth inning for Liquori. The Owl right fielder made them pay by sending a game-tying grand slam over the wall in right with one out.
“Tanner really pitched well and it’s shame he didn’t get a win out of it,” said Hall.
Shelton allowed just an unearned run on two hits over a career-long five innings with two strikeouts.
Tech dodged further trouble in the frame following Liquori’s blast and the offense went right back to work, regaining the lead in the top of the seventh. Spingola’s second hit of the game got the inning started and he sprinted home from first when Gonzalez slammed an RBI double off the wall in deep left-center field. Smith’s RBI single to left made it 7-5.
But the hosts answered back in the bottom of the seventh with an RBI double from Max Pentecost and a game-tying single up the middle from Bo Way.
Pentecost and Way each had two of the Owls nine hits.
Tech is back in action Wednesday night at Georgia State at 6 p.m.