May 25, 2003
Salem, Va. – Eric Patterson singled in the winning run with two out in the 10th inning Sunday night, lifting 10th-ranked Georgia Tech to a 6-5victory over NC State and giving the Yellow Jackets the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball championship at Salem Memorial Stadium.
Tech (44-16) won the title in historic fashion, sweeping a triple-header on Sunday against North Carolina (10-6), Florida State (10-7) and the Wolfpack. Tech had never played, or won, three games in the same day, but Sunday the Jackets played 28 innings in 11 hours and 20 minutes, beginning at 9:30 a.m. and finishing at 8:54 p.m. when Jake Hall crossed the plate with the winning run.
The Yellow Jackets rallied from five runs behind to win each of the first two games, then watched as NC State rallied from a three-run deficit to tie the game in the ninth of the nightcap before winning.
The Jackets previously won ACC championships in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 2000. It is the second conference title for Tech under head coach Danny Hall.
The winning rally started with a walk from reliever Chad Orvella to Jeremy Slayden to lead off the 10th. Orvella (2-2), normally the NC State shortstop, had become the fourth Wolfpack pitcher in the seventh inning and had retired eight batters in a row through the ninth. Jake Hall replaced Slayden at first when his ground ball hit Slayden between first and second base. Tyler Greene blooped a single over the second baseman to put men at first and second with one out, and both runners moved up a base on Brandon Boggs’ grounder to first.
Patterson, who was 1-for-4 before the 10th, fell behind 0-2, but fouled off three pitches and took two close called balls before sending Orvella’s eighth pitch of the at-bat into center field and driving in Hall with the winning run.
The hit made a winner of Jeff Watchko (3-3), a senior Tech reliever who entered the game with one out in the sixth inning and finished the game despite surrendering three runs in the eighth and ninth innings.
The Wolfpack, who left 16 runners on base and left the bases loaded three times in the first six frames, got three hits in the eighth, including Joe Gaetti’s RBI single, to plate a run. The ‘Pack tied the game in the ninth with two runs. Dustin Knight singled and Marc Maynor doubled to put runners at second and third. Adam Hargrave drove in Knight with a sacrifice fly, and Maynor scored when Tech right fielder Jeremy Slayden threw wildly past third base.
Mike Nickeas got Tech on the board with a sacrifice fly in the first inning, and added three more runs in the fifth on four hits for a 4-1 lead. The Wolfpack scored an unearned run in the fifth when Orvella singled and scored on a sacrifice fly, then added another run in the sixth on four walks. Tech added a run for a 5-2 lead in the seventh when Matt Murton walked and scored on Jeremy Slayden’s double.
Freshman Jason Neighborgall started the game for Tech and pitched 5-1/3 innings, giving up four hits and seven walks, but just two runs (one earned) in his second-longest outing of the season.
Having recorded a save against Wake Forest on Thursday and a win in relief against Florida State earlier Saturday, junior righthander Brian Burks was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Burks, Patterson, Slayden, Clifton Remole and Micah Owings were named to the All-Tournament team.
Tech begins play in the NCAA Atlanta Regional tournament Friday at 7 p.m. against an opponent to be determined. The NCAA will announce the complete 64-team field at 12:30 p.m. Monday on ESPN2. NC State also was chosen to host a regional at Wilson, N.C.