May 30, 2009
ATLANTA – J.R. Ballinger scattered seven hits over a career-long 8 1/3 innings, and B.A. Vollmuth drove in four runs with a double and a home run as Southern Miss downed 13th-ranked Georgia Tech, 10-7, Saturday night in the winners’ bracket of the NCAA Atlanta Regional baseball at Russ Chandler Stadium.
Southern Miss (37-23) has advanced to the championship game of a regional for the fourth time in 10 tries, and will play at 7 p.m. Sunday night against the winner of the 3 p.m. elimination game pitting Tech against Elon. The Golden Eagles are 2-0 in an NCAA regional for the first time.
Tech (36-18-1) is 19-19 in elimination games in NCAA regional and super regional games, and just 1-6 in such games since 2000. Tech fell to 22-14 record in NCAA Tournament games at Russ Chandler Stadium, and 8-7 when the Yellow Jackets are the visiting team.
Ballinger (6-3), a junior in his first season as a starting pitcher, surpassed his previous high of eight innings, set in a Conference USA Tournament win against East Carolina last weekend. He blanked the Yellow Jackets on two hits from the third through the eighth innings before tiring in the ninth.
Ballinger retired the first batter in the ninth inning, but was lifted after giving up a walk and a single. Wade Weathers gave up an RBI double to Jeff Rowland and a two-run homer to Luke Murton, and Collin Cargill had to come on to get the final out.
Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles pounded out 13 hits and scored in double digits for the second straight game in this regional, taking advantage of a season-high five errors by the Yellow Jackets.
The teams traded single runs in the first two innings before Georgia Tech loaded the bases with nobody out in its half of the third. The Yellow Jackets scored twice on Tony Plagman’s sacrifice fly and Matt Skole’s RBI single for a 3-1 lead, but left the based loaded.
Spared from surrendering a much bigger inning, the Golden Eagles took advantage of three Tech errors to score three times on just two hits in the bottom of the third and take a 4-3 lead. Kyle Maxie started the rally with a single, reached second when Tech second baseman Connor Winn fumbled Taylor Walker’s grounder and went to third on Bo Davis’ fly to center.
James Ewing drove in the first run with a grounder to third and also reached first when third baseman Matt Skole bobbled the ball. After a walk to Kameron Brunty, Corey Stevens hit into a force play to shortstop to score Walker, but Ewing also came home when Winn’s relay throw sailed past first base.
Tech’s fourth error of the game led to four Golden Eagle runs in the fifth. Davis led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored when Brunty’s grounder to second went under the glove of Winn. Brunty made second on the error and scored on Stevens’ single. After a walk to Ewing, B.A. Vollmuth doubled home two runs to give USM an 8-3 lead.
Tech starter Brandon Cumpton (4-3), making his 12th start of the season, took the loss after giving up eight runs on six hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings But only two of the runs charged to Cumpton were earned.
Vollmuth belted his fourth homer of the season, a two-run blast, in the seventh for Southern Miss’ final runs. His four RBI were a career high.