June 2, 2002
ATLANTA – Top-seeded Georgia Tech blew nearly all of a five-run lead in the ninth inning, but relief pitcher Philip Perry came on to bail the Yellow Jackets out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam and lift Tech to an 8-7 victory over Georgia Sunday afternoon in the championship game of the NCAA Atlanta Regional.
The Jackets, who improved their record to 49-14 and won their second regional tournament in three years, advance to face the winner of the Tuscaloosa Regional beginning Friday. Georgia finished its season at 32-29.
Tech, behind the strong pitching of Brian Burks (10-6), took a 6-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth before the Bulldogs scored six runs over the final two frames. Burks tossed 7-plus innings, scattering five hits and two walks while allowing just one earned run. But the junior righthander gave up a single to Adam Swann to start the eighth inning and was relieved after 95 pitches.
Georgia third baseman Lee Mitchell, the tournament’s leading hitter at .500, greeted Tech reliever Jeff Watchko with a two-run homer to right field to bring the Bulldogs to within 6-3.
Jason Perry doubled home two runs in the ninth inning to extend Tech’s lead to 8-3. The runs proved critical after Watchko allowed a single and two walks to load the bases with no outs in the ninth. Tech shortstop Victor Menocal, the tournament’s most outstanding player, relieved Watchko, and Adam Swann drilled a two-run single to center field to score two runs and make the score 8-5. Mitchell followed with a single to reload the bases, and Menocal was lifted in favor of Perry.
Perry fanned Justin McClain on a called third strike, but committed a balk to allow another run to score. Catcher Clint Sammons grounded out to Menocal at shortstop for the second out, but Swann scored on the play to trim Tech’s lead to 8-7. Perry then struck out Matt Cavender on three pitches to seal the victory and earn his third save of the season.
“Just a great feeling to win the game,” said Tech head coach Danny Hall. “Again, we had great starting pitching. Brian Burks gave us a great effort, and we go some key hits when we needed to. Jason Perry’s hit to knock in two runs in the ninth was a key hit.
“We made it a little too hairy late, but Georgia’s done that all year. They’ve always been able to come back, but Philip Perry bailed us out. He came in and got two strikeouts on guys I did not want to see at the plate.”
The loss went to Georgia starter Jason Fellows, who pitched just three innings and allowed three runs on five hits. Tech got on the board in the second inning on Brandon Boggs’ RBI single, then added a pair of runs in the third on singles by Tyler Parker and Jason Perry.
Bill Sharpton came on to hold Tech at bay until the seventh, and Georgia scored an unearned run in the fourth on Cavender’s single.
Tech added two runs in the seventh on three hits and an error to make the score 5-1, then scored another in the eighth on a walk, a double and a wild pitch.
“All the credit in the world to Georgia Tech,” said Georgia coach David Perno. “I think they have a great team, no question about it. They have a lot of talent and experience, and they are going to be a team that has a chance to go to Omaha.”
“I don’t think anyone in February expected us to be in the position that we were in, and we never quit until the final out. We played with a lot of heart and a lot of guts, and that’s the way we’ve played all year.”
Pitchers Kyle Bakker and Chris Goodman, who combined to pitch 15 1/3 innings of shutout ball in the first two games of the tournament, were joined by Menocal and outfielder Jeremy Slayden for Tech on the all-tournament team. Also honored were Mitchell, Swann and Josh Smith of Georgia, catcher Randy McGarvey, Jr., second baseman Brandon Powell and outfielder Ryan McGraw of Coastal Carolina, and first baseman Morgan Bojorquez of Louisville.
If Georgia Tech is chosen to host a super regional next week, tickets will go on sale at the Tech ticket office beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Call 888-TECH-TIX.
2002 NCAA Atlanta Regional All-Tournament Team
C–Randy McGarvey, Jr., Coastal Carolina 1B–Morgan Bojorquez, Louisville 2B–Brandon Powell, Coastal Carolina SS–Victor Menocal, Georgia Tech 3B–Lee Mitchell, Georgia OF–Adam Swann, Georgia OF–Jeremy Slayden, Georgia Tech OF–Ryan McGraw, Coastal Carolina DH–Josh Smith, Georgia P–Kyle Bakker, Georgia Tech P–Chris Goodman, Georgia Tech
Most Outstanding Player — Victor Menocal, Georgia Tech