May 24, 2002
St. Petersburg, Fla. – Georgia Tech rallied from deficits of five and four runs behind three RBI each from Matt Murton and Tyler Parker, and Jeff Watchko pitched shutout relief over the final four innings as the Yellow Jackets defeated North Carolina, 10-8, Friday afternoon in the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament at Florida Power Park.
Tech (46-13) survived in the loser’s bracket of the tournament to face top-seeded Florida State Saturday. The outcome of Friday night’s game between FSU and Wake Forest will determine the time Tech plays. If FSU wins, the Jackets and Seminoles meet at 12 noon. If the Deacons win, the game will be at 3:30 p.m. North Carolina (40-19) was eliminated and waits to learn its NCAA Tournament fate Monday.
Tech spotted the North Carolina five runs and eight hits in the first three innings off starter Kyle Bakker, keyed by Adam Greenberg’s three-run home run in the second frame. The Jackets, stymied by UNC starter Daniel Moore early, came alive with four runs in the fourth on Jeremy Slayden’s two-run homer and a pair of RBI-doubles from Tyler Parker and Wes Rynders.
Carolina restored its lead to 8-4 in the top half of the fifth, however, chasing Bakker with back-to-back homers by Jeremy Cleveland and Ryan Blake to make it 7-4. The Tar Heels added a third run in the frame off Watchko on singles by Chad Prosser and Greenberg.
Again, however, Tech stormed back in its half of the fifth to take a 9-8 lead. Aided by three walks from Carolina pitchers, Tech scored five times off Moore and reliever Carter Harrell behind a two-run single by Parker and RBI-singles by Matthew Boggs and Brandon Boggs. The Jackets added a single run in the sixth when Slayden was hit with a pitch to lead off the inning and came around to score after singles from Parker and Matthew Boggs.
Watchko (11-1), who earned the third ACC Tournament victory of his career, silenced the Tar Heel bats over the final four innings, allowing just four baserunners, all on singles, and only one runner as far as second base. He fanned three and did not issue a walk. The Tar Heels singled twice with two out in the ninth to threaten, but Watchko retired Prosser on a fly to right for the final out. His 5-inning stint was his longest since a 5-inning effort for a win in relief Apr. 27 against Virginia.
Moore, who had tossed a complete game, 6-1 victory over Tech last Sunday, gave up six runs and five hits in 4 1/3 innings this time. Harrell (8-4) surrendered three runs on three hits in just 1/3 of an inning in the fifth and took the loss.
Tech has now won at least two games in the ACC Tournament three straight years, a stretch which includes the Jackets’ most recent championship in 2000. Slayden’s fourth-inning homer was his 17th of the season, establishing a Tech season record for freshmen and breaking the old mark of 16 by Frank Bolick in 1987. Eric Patterson stole his 35th base of the season, the most since Ty Griffin swiped 38 in 1988 and the sixth-most in a season in Tech history.
Saturday’s game will be carried live on WREK-Radio (91.1 FM in Atlanta) and on the internet at www.ramblinwreck.com, while live scoring and boxscores for all games of the tournament is available at www.theacc.com.