May 26, 2012
Here’s a good story by Bill Hass of TheACC.com on Davies and Georgia Tech.
By Jon Cooper
Not many scenarios had Georgia Tech playing in the Championship Game of the 2012 ACC Baseball Championship.
The Yellow Jackets, in fact, had to win on the final day of the regular season against Miami just to earn a berth into the eight-team ACC Tournament. Once in Greensboro, Tech found itself in the same four-team pool with the nation’s No. 1-ranked team, Florida State, as well as Virginia and Clemson.
The Yellow Jackets, however, with Saturday’s 5-1 victory over Clemson, finished 3-0 in pool play to clinch a spot in Sunday’s Championship Game. They’ll play either NC State or Miami for the right to claim the school’s eighth ACC Tournament Championship and the fourth in the Danny HallEra. First pitch is at noon.
Freshman Josh Heddinger(3-4, 5.09), the midweek starter for much of the year, gets the ball for Tech. He’s pitched some of his best ball of the year, allowing four earned runs over his last three starts covering 14 2/3 innings (a 2.45 ERA).
“Definitely not what they predicted, but we’re doing pretty well,” said Jake Davies, with a laugh.
Davies is doing especially well. He’s 5-for-11 at the plate (.455), with a slugging percentage of 1.636, as all five of his hits have been for extra bases (four homers and a double). He’s scored six runs and driven in eight more.
On Saturday, the senior did what seniors do and what he’s done pretty much all season and all tournament long. He put the team on his back, doing the job on offense and on the mound.
He started in the first inning. Centerfielder Kyle Wren led off with a single and was moved to second on a Sam Dove sacrifice. Clemson starter Kevin Pohle looked like he might wriggle off the hook, retiring Brandon Thomas, but Davies had other plans.
He worked the count full then gave the Jackets a 2-0 lead, hitting a towering drive over the right field wall off a 3-2 pitch for a 2-0 lead.
The homer was his fourth of the tournament, one off the all-time record.
While the tone for the game was set in the top of the first, the game itself may have been saved in the bottom half of the inning.
Clemson leadoff hitter Steve Wilkerson homered to cut the lead in half, but then the defense — actually, Sam Dove— took over.
On successive plays the junior, who is among the conference leaders in batting average, showed he could take hits away as well. He made an acrobatic charge-and-throw on Thomas Brittle’s bunt, then made a more routine stop on slugging third baseman Richie Shaffer’s sharp grounder. He saved the best for last, concluding the inning by robbing DH Phil Pohl. Dove dove to his left, gloved Pohl’s smash, then somehow got off as strong throw. First baseman Daniel Palka’sstretch saved the out. Tech was out of the inning, still up.
“When you have a guy like Jake on the mound he brings a lot of intensity and from the very first pitch,” said Dove. “He kind of got the defense on its toes from the very first pitch. Everybody really wants to win this tournament and we’re playing hard and playing confident.”
The plays allowed Davies to relax.
“Those were huge plays,” Davies said. “That curbed the momentum of the home run and that was real big at that point in the game.
“I gave up that home run and I was a little hyped up so I was taking a few steps off the mound, and get back into the groove, calm down and take a breather,” he added. “Dove made those three amazing plays right there. All those plays in the first inning sort of set the tone for me the rest of the game.”
Tech got the run back in the second on a Thomas Smith RBI double then added on two in the third, on an error and a Zane EvansRBI double. Evans went 3-for-4 for the second straight day and has driven in seven runs in those two games.
At 5-1, the game was over for all intents and purposes.
Davies settled in from there, allowing only one hit over his final five innings. Alex Cruzdid the rest, allowing three hits over the final three innings, and inducing a key double play to get out of trouble in the eighth.
“We’re all playing well, playing very relaxed and playing very confident,” said Hall. “We’ve had three really good games and against three really good teams.”
Tech will try to make it four really good games against four really good teams today in the championship game.
It’s hard to believe that only eight days ago the Yellow Jackets’ season came down to one game against Miami just to stay alive and get to Greensboro. Now they are one win away from leaving there with a conference crown.
“We’re playing well right now we just want to play baseball,” Davies said. “That’s about it. Right now everybody’s taking a nap, so it’s quiet in the hotel.”
To some, the last four days have been a dream. It’s a dream from which they’d prefer to awaken on Monday.
Just in time for NCAA Tournament Selection.