June 1, 2008
ATHENS, Ga. – Georgia used three home runs and a masterpiece pitching performance by Nick Montgomery Sunday night to beat Georgia Tech, 8-0, and force a deciding game in the Athens NCAA Baseball Regional at Foley Field.
The Yellow Jackets (41-20), the regional’s No. 2 seed, and Georgia (38-22-1), the host and No. 1 seed, will meet here Monday at 7 p.m. with the winner advancing to one of eight Super Regionals and the loser closing the book on the 2008 season.
Montgomery (3-2) pitched a near-flawless game, scattering four hits and striking out nine. Georgia Tech was shutout in an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in 20 years and the Yellow Jackets were blanked by the Bulldogs for the first time in nearly 40 years. Tech’s four base hits were its fewest in any game this season.
“There’s not much for me to say,” Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall said. “I just hope Nick Montgomery can’t pitch again tomorrow because he has pitched against us twice (this season) and we couldn’t do anything with him.”
Georgia Tech’s Charlie Blackmon singled in the third inning and again in the ninth. In between, no Yellow Jacket earned a base hit against Montgomery, a right-hander making just his third start of the season.
“Give him (Montgomery) a lot of credit,” Hall said. “He pitched nine innings, threw a shutout in a big game… give him all the credit in the world.”
Georgia, which lost in the opening round of the regional on Friday to Lipscomb, had to beat the Bison, 14-3, earlier Sunday to reach the championship round.
The Bulldogs scored all the runs they would need in the bottom of the third when they took a 2-0 lead. Georgia, which hit three home runs on the night, used a Ryan Peisel triple, followed by a Matt Olson two-run homer to take the early lead.
Georgia took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth, but missed a golden opportunity for further damage. With one out and the bases loaded, Yellow Jacket starter Eddie Burns (7-5) walked David Thoms on five pitches, sending home Bryce Massanari from third. But Burns settled down and retired the next two batters, leaving the bases loaded and feeling fortunate to have surrendered just one run.
Georgia added a pair of runs in the fifth inning to take a 5-0 lead and again, the Bulldogs used the long ball. With two outs, Massanari singled through the right side of the infield. The next batter, Matt Cerione, slammed a two-run home run.
Tech, meanwhile, could not get anything going against Montgomery. Other than Blackmon, who has seven hits in three regional games, the rest of the order combined to go 2-for-25 against Montgomery.
“I want to give Nick a lot of credit,” Blackmon said of Montgomery. “He threw very well against us and kind of threw us off our game plan. He threw a lot of strikes.”
The Bulldogs put the game out of reach in the seventh inning, taking an 8-0 lead. Gordon Beckham hit a one-out single and Rich Poythress followed with a two-run blast over the wall. Georgia added an insurance run when Cerione singled, stole second and scored on a hit by Robbie O’Bryan.
Burns overcame a shaky, but harmless first inning in which he gave up two walks. But Burns used his 6-foot-8 frame to field a high one-bouncer by Massanari. Tech made two more defensive gems in the bottom of the second – a diving SportsCenter-quality catch by Jeff Rowland in center field and Tony Plagman’s backhand of a hard-hit ground ball down the first-base line.
Georgia Tech appeared to be on the verge of a mini-rally in the top of the third inning when Thomas Nichols led off with a single. But after a long fly-ball out by Jason Haniger, Nichols was caught trying to steal his first base of the season. That turned out to be costly because Patrick Long followed with a walk and Blackmon continued his torrid streak with a single. A wild pitch put Yellow Jackets on second and third base, but Montgomery struck out Rowland to end the first serious threat of the game by either team.
“We had one chance early,” Hall said. “But they got the lead and got the crowd into it. I don’t think we were flat, I just think he did a good job of pitching.”
The Yellow Jackets were shutout for the first time since March 24, 2007 by Duke. They were shutout in an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 1988 by South Carolina. And Tech was blanked by Georgia for the first time since 1969.
The winner of Monday’s game advances to next week’s Super Regional against either NC State or South Carolina.
“We’ve got another shot at it and we just have to be ready to play tomorrow,” Hall said.
– Blackmon extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
– Blackmon’s second base hit was his 98th of the season, tying for the 16th-most single-season hits in Tech history.
– The Jackets recorded their fewest hits in a game this season. Prior to tonight, Tech’s fewest hits in a game this season was five, twice – vs. Georgia at Turner Field and vs. East Tennessee State.
– The last time Georgia Tech was shutout by Georgia came in 1969 – a 1-0 Bulldog victory in Athens.
– Tech was shutout in an NCAA Tournament game for just the second time.
– Tech was last shutout in an NCAA Tournament game in 1988 by South Carolina (5-0). Since then, the Yellow Jackets have shutout opponents 11 times in NCAA Tournament play.
– Blackmon has 30 multi-hit games this season.
– Georgia Tech is 3-1 at Foley Field in 2008, including an 11-1 win over Georgia on May 7th.
– The Yellow Jackets are 2-3 all-time in NCAA Tournament play at Foley Field.
– Georgia Tech has earned an NCAA Tournament bid 22 times in the last 24 years.
– The Yellow Jackets are 56-48 all-time in NCAA Tournament play.
– Monday’s game will be the 346th all-time meeting between Georgia Tech and Georgia.