May 25, 2003
Salem, Va. – Mike Nickeas doubled home the deciding runs following a critical Florida State error in a six-run Georgia Tech rally in the ninth inning, lifting the 10th-ranked Yellow Jackets past the No. 1 Seminoles, 10-7, in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament Sunday afternoon.
Tech (43-16) advanced to face NC State (42-15) in the championship game of the tournament with the opportunity to win its first ACC title since 2000 and sixth in its history. The Jackets, who defeated North Carolina, 10-6, earlier Sunday, are playing their third game of the day, a first in Tech baseball history.
The Seminoles (50-10-1) led 7-4 entering the ninth and sent closer Daniel Hodges, who had a 5-0 record with 12 saves coming in, to the mound. But Tech came up with five hits to take advantage of a key FSU error and scored six times.
Tyler Greene and Eric Patterson singled, and Steven Blackwood walked to load the bases with one out, setting up the key play of the frame. Matt Murton hit a potential double-play grounder to FSU shortstop Stephen Drew, but the sophomore mishandled his toss to second baseman Bryan Zech, leaving all three runners safe as Greene scored to make the score 7-5. Clifton Remole grounded to first base to drive in Patterson and bring Tech within a run at 7-6.
Nickeas sent Hodges’ next pitch into the left field corner to score Blackwood and Murton to give the Jackets an 8-7 lead. Jeremy Slayden, hitting .429 in the tournament, tripled to right-center field to score Nickeas, and scored on Micah Owings’ single to make the score 10-7.
Brian Burks (5-1) earned the win after giving up just two hits over the final 5-2/3 innings for the win, but he nearly didn’t get the chance to close out the game. He entered the game in the fourth inning, but gave up a two-run homer to Drew in a three-run FSU sixth that put the Seminoles ahead 7-2.
He retired the last 10 FSU batters in order, however, giving the Jackets a chance to come back for the second time Sunday. Tech, which had trailed 5-0 against the Tar Heels before winning, scored twice in the seventh to get within striking distance of the Seminoles at 7-4.
Tech also learned Sunday afternoon that it will host one of the 16 NCAA regional tournaments next weekend, awaits word on which three teams will be assigned to the Atlanta Regional with the Yellow Jackets when the complete 64-team field is announced at 12:30 p.m. Monday on ESPN2. FSU, like Tech, returns home to host an NCAA regional beginning next Friday.