May 14, 2012
By Jon Cooper
With one weekend to play, Georgia Tech Baseball’s postseason chances look good.
They look better after surviving Sunday afternoon’s close shave.
Turns out all it needed was a touch of Zane Evans.
Playing with a razor-thin margin for error just to qualify for the ACC Tournament, the Yellow Jackets trailed Virginia, 4-2, and were three outs away from an untimely sweep at the hands of the Coastal Division rival Cavaliers.
A loss would have put Tech on the outside looking in, as Virginia Tech and Wake Forest would have jumped them, and set up a final weekend where they would require help to get in.
As the ninth inning began and UVA’s superb closer Justin Thompson, smelling save No. 11 and No. 3 of the series, stared in at them, the Jackets needed someone to step up and make something happen.
Evans became that someone.
He singled to start the ninth and came around to score the first run of the game-tying rally.
In the 10th inning, Evans came up with two outs and broke the tie, blasting a 1-1 pitch from Thompson over the wall in left, giving the Yellow Jackets a 5-4 lead. It was the second homer the senior closer has allowed all season.
But the heroics weren’t done. In the bottom half of the inning, Evans relieved Alex Cruz, who ran out of gas after pitching 5 2/3 innings of one-run, three-hit ball.
Inheriting runners at first and second with one out, he worked the count full then struck out Derek Fisher, one of the ACC’s top sluggers, then got Jared King to fly out to right, preserving the victory. Evans’ team-high fourth save — he has two of the team’s three saves in ACC play — kept the Jackets a head up on their pursuers.
It also showed why he was recently named to the watch list for the John Olerud Award for top two-way player in the nation.
The sophomore catcher/RHP is proud of the spot he has earned on the list — he and teammate Jake Davies are the only ACC representatives to make it.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said Evans, who had three hits over the weekend, including his second and third homers of the season, with his blast on Saturday accounting for both Tech runs. “I’ve worked hard to play both positions all my life. It’s a great honor. John Olerud is a great name and a great player. So it’s just great to be around something like that award.
“Jake, he’s a great first baseman and a great pitcher,” he added. “It’s definitely awesome to have two people from the same team in the ACC on that watch list.”
The effort on Sunday might have left some wondering if there is nothing Evans can’t do.
The more teammates you talk to, the more one gets the impression that answer is no.
Shortstop Mott Hyde credited Evans with forming the informal, off-day team golf outings that have helped turn around his season.
Evans takes some credit for starting the outings, but credits Hyde for the turnaround.
“Golf is just something to ease our minds, get away from the game for a little bit,” he said. “I’ve always loved playing and some other guys are starting to like it, too. It’s just something that’s fun.
“[Hyde] works hard at baseball. He thinks that the golf is helping him,” he continued. “I don’t know how true that is but if he thinks it’s helping him then he can keep doing it. It’s great for him.”
Evans also had a direct hand in creating Davies’ Mohawk haircut, which has gotten credit for turning his season around.
He admits crafting Davies’ ‘do, but, as with Hyde, refuses to take credit for any on-field results.
“I am the team barber,” he conceded. “I don’t know why he likes his hair like that but it’s pretty nice. I think it fits him well.
“I don’t give it any [credit],” he added, with a laugh. “He’s always had his hair like that. So I don’t know how it’s going to help him out. But that’s fine if he thinks it does. Keep it the same.”
“Zane’s the guy who cuts everybody’s hair,” Davies said. “He’s pretty good.”
He is good enough to have developed a following and a constant flow of walk-up customers amongst his teammates.
“They come to me,” he said. “I’ll have people come to my apartment late at night on a weekday saying they want a hair cut, which is fine with me. I just love doing it.”
Evans is self-taught, having learned by cutting others’ hair and by watching barbers cut his, although he says now a days, he cuts his own hair.
“I just look in the mirror and see how it goes.” he said. “I don’t have any specific pattern. I cut it and make sure it’s even.”
He’s gotten more daring, having graduated from electric clippers to scissors.
“The first one I ever cut with scissors was Luke Bard and he liked it,” Evans recalled. “I was a little surprised because he thought I had done it before. He came to my room one night, because he lives in the same complex, and wanted a haircut. I thought I was just going to trim his head up a little bit. He said he wanted a scissors cut. So I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll try it.’ It turned out pretty well. I was happy about that.”
His customers, obviously, have been as well. Evans has no horror stories of buzzes gone awry or snipped ears.
Should the Yellow Jackets come out with a team cut for postseason everybody will know who’s responsible.
It’ll be Evans, the same guy who’s done just about everything to get them there.