June 5, 2010
ATLANTA – Sophomore Mark Pope pitched Georgia Tech’s first complete game shutout since 2007 and senior Tony Plagman went 5-for-5 at the plate, including a pair of home runs, as Georgia Tech blanked Mercer 10-0 in the opening round of the NCAA Baseball Atlanta Regional Friday night.
The top-seeded Yellow Jackets (46-13) will play No. 2 seed Alabama Saturday at 7 p.m. Mercer (37-23) will face Elon Saturday at 3 p.m. in an elimination game.
“It certainly was a great ballgame for us,” said Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall. “I never dreamed that [Pope] would go nine innings, nor throw a shutout. He kept his pitch count down. He threw a complete game with 10 strikeouts, two walks against a very good hitting Mercer team.”
A Russ Chandler Stadium crowd of 2,776 watched Pope throw his first career complete game, allowing only five hits and two walks, while striking out 10. He improved his record to 8-1 on the season with the school’s first nine-inning shutout in a regional since 2002.
After facing the minimum number of batters over the first three frames, Pope pitched out of trouble in the fourth and fifth innings. The Marietta (Ga.) sophomore coaxed a 4-6-3 double play out of Mercer clean-up hitter Thomas Carroll following a pair of hits in the fourth.
In the fifth, the Georgia Tech starter issued one-out walks to Joe Winker and Nick DiMauro before John Moreland, one of two Bears with 20-plus home runs on the season, grounded out to second. Evan Boyd then struck out.
Pope then cruised through the final four innings, facing just two batters over the minimum courtesy of a pair of harmless singles by Mercer’s leading hitter and run-producer Jacob Tanis and the visitors’ leadoff man Billy Burns.
“I was running on straight adrenaline in the ninth inning,” Pope said. “I got the chills when the crowd started to chant.”
Plagman, coming into the game with a .357 batting average, 19 home runs, and 73 RBI, continued to feast off of Mercer pitching. He matched a career high with his five hits, including two home runs and three runs batted in.
Now a combined 9-for-10 with seven RBI against the Bears this season, the senior from Alpharetta opened the scoring for the Yellow Jackets with a solo shot to right field off of Brandon Love in the bottom of the first.
Plagman followed with a nearly identically placed two-run homer in the bottom of the third, again off of Love.
“I thought Tony’s first-inning home run really relaxed everybody on the team,” Hall said of Plagman. “Then his two-run shot gave us a little distance.”
The Yellow Jackets added three more runs in the fourth on a Jeff Rowland RBI single and a Jay Dantzler two-run home run, as well as two more in the sixth on a Jacob Esch RBI single and a Derek Dietrich sacrifice fly.
A solo shot to lead off the eighth by Esch and an RBI double by Matt Skole four batters later rounded out the scoring for the home team.
Dantzler, Esch, Skole, and Thomas Nichols each had a pair of hits for Georgia Tech, while Burns and Tanis each went 2-for-4 for Mercer.
Love, who entered the game with a 6.19 ERA, saw his record drop to 8-4 on the season, allowing seven hits, one walk, and five earned runs in three-and-one-third innings of work.
“Pope was outstanding tonight, and it was the ‘Tony Plagman Show,'” said Mercer head coach Craig Gibson. “I thought our guys played hard, hit the ball well, but I think Tech showed why they are a national seed. It was a great environment and really tough to beat those guys.”
Georgia Tech, the national No. 8 seed, will meet Alabama for the first time since 1996, with the Tide holding a 36-28-1 edge in the series, including a 1-1 mark in NCAA Tournament play.