May 12, 2013
THE FLATS – Zane Evans delivered a walk-off RBI single to score Kyle Wren in the 11th inning, and Evans pitched the final three scoreless innings as the Yellow Jackets rallied to beat No. 2 North Carolina, 9-8, Sunday in the rubber-game of the series at Russ Chandler Stadium. Daniel Palka pitched an inning of relief, and his RBI single tied the game during Tech’s three-run ninth.
The Jackets rallied with the game’s final six runs after UNC opened an 8-3 lead at the seventh-inning stretch. Mott Hyde, who hit a walk-off home run to beat the Heels Friday night, launched a two-run shot to left in the seventh inning to trigger the comeback.
“Zane held the fort for three innings and then got the big hit,” said head coach Danny Hall, who improved to 42-28 all-time versus Carolina. “We just kept battling and we needed to today. We beat a very, very good team. They’re on top of our league for a reason. To win this series was big for us.”
The Yellow Jackets, whose last two ACC series wins have come over No. 5 Virginia and No. 2 North Carolina – the teams with the two best records in the conference, improved to 32-20 overall and 14-13 in ACC play. Tech also clinched an ACC Tournament spot on Sunday.
The Tar Heels slipped to 45-6, 20-5 in dropping a series for the first time since Tech took two of three in Chapel Hill last April. UNC has not won a series from the Tech since 2009.
“There was a different atmosphere in the dugout (late in the game),” said Evans, who hit .375 in five games this past week. “Right now we know we have to keep winning. If want to get into a Regional and into the ACC Tournament, we have to keep winning. Whatever needs to be done, we’re finding a way to do it and that’s great out of our team right now.”
Brandon Thomas, Evans and Palka drove in runs during the Yellow Jackets’ three-run bottom of the ninth that tied the game, and Evans dealt the knockout blow with no outs in the 11th after Wren and Thomas drew walks ahead of him.
Evans’ single through the left side was scooped up by left fielder Parks Jordan on the run and his throw home was beat out by a sliding Wren at the plate to give the Jackets their second walk-off win this weekend and their fourth this season.
“I probably shouldn’t have (sent him), but I knew he`s my fastest guy,” said Hall. “If they make a great throw, they make a great throw. And they almost did.”
It was Jordan, though, who came up with an incredible diving catch in left on a liner from Sam Dove that ended the ninth with a runner in scoring position and forced extra innings.
After catching the previous two games of the series and the first eight innings on Sunday, Evans took to the mound with his team down by three in the top of the ninth. He worked around a two-out walk in the ninth, and retired the final seven Tar Heels he faced to put himself in line for the win (1-2).
Palka was Friday night’s winning pitcher in relief and the junior was back on the hill Sunday to toss a perfect eighth inning on 13 pitches to keep Tech within striking distance. Jonathan Roberts came on to the get the final two outs of the seventh to strand a runner in scoring position.
Wren, who became the first player in the ACC this season to 80 hits, finished the day 3-for-4 with a pair of walks and two runs. Evans, Hyde and Matt Gonzalez each had two of the Jackets’ 14 hits, as Tech became the first ACC team to score more than eight against UNC this season — in fact, only three times this season has UNC allowed more than four runs in an ACC game (nine to Tech Sunday, five to Tech Friday and eight during a 22-8 win over Virginia Tech in April).
Carolina opened the scoring with three runs in the fourth inning and chased starter Jonathan King after 3.1 innings in his first career ACC start. Tech got one back in the fifth when Brandon Thomas scampered home from third on a wild pitch, but the Tar Heels went right back to work in the sixth with four runs on five hits to make 7-1.
The Jackets capitalized on the only error committed by either team in the series and scored twice in the sixth. Thomas Smith walked with one out, Wren followed with a single and both moved up on a wild pitch. With two outs, Evans ground a ball through the right side that was misplayed by the second baseman and allowed both runs to score.
Colin Moran, who finished the day 2-for-4 with two RBI and two walks, lifted a run-scoring double to left in the seventh that made it 8-3.
In Sunday’s game that lasted four hours and 31 minutes, the teams combined to throw 434 pitches and use 16 pitchers. Tech had runners in scoring position in 10 of the 11 innings and totaled 18 runners left on base, while UNC left 12 stranded.
The Yellow Jackets complete their regular-season home schedule Tuesday night by hosting Georgia at 7:30 p.m. in the rubber-game of the teams’ season series. Tech then travels to Miami for the final ACC series of the year Thursday through Saturday in Coral Gables.