May 26, 2012
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Senior Jake Davies continued his ACC Championship masterpiece by launching a two-run home run in the first inning, and firing a two-hit gem over a career-long six innings as Georgia Tech secured a berth in the title game with a 5-1 win over Clemson on Saturday at NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro, N.C.
The eight-seeded Yellow Jackets (35-24), who didn’t qualify for the tournament until the final day of the regular season, and are now the lone unbeaten team in Greensboro and have secured the program’s 11th appearance in the ACC Championship game.
Tech plays either Miami or NC State Sunday at noon on ESPN2, with the conference title, an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament, on line. The Jackets will be gunning for their eighth ACC title, and first since 2005.
Georgia Tech becomes just the third-ever eighth-seed to reach the finals – joining Wake Forest in 2007 and NC State in 2001 – after yesterday posting the most-lopsided victory by a No. 8-seed in the tournament’s 39-year history with a 17-5 rout of Virginia, and Wednesday, becoming just the third 8th-seed to knock off a No. 1-seed with the 5-4 win over Florida State.
“We’ve just played well,” said head coach Danny Hall, who Sunday looks for his fourth ACC title as the Jackets’ skipper. “We’ve gotten timely hitting and played good defense for the most part. We’ve pitched it well, and when you do those things, you give yourself a chance. Probably more than anything, we’re playing very relaxed and confident. We’ve played three very good games against three really good teams.”
Even before toeing the rubber for the first time against fifth-seeded Clemson (33-26) on Saturday, Davies gave himself and the Jackets a 2-0 lead with a two-out bomb over the fence in right, after Kyle Wren reached on a lead-off single through the left side.
Davies finished the game 1-for-5 at the plate, and is now 5-for-11 in the tournament with a double, four home runs, nine RBI and slugging 1.636.
Davies and Evans, who was 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and an RBI, are powering an explosive Tech offense that has piled up 31 runs and hit six homers through three games of the tournament. As a team, the Jackets are hitting .310, with 17 of their 31 hits going for extra bases — a team slugging percentage of .610.
The offense was not Saturday’s only highlight, as Tech played solid defense and limited an explosive Tiger team to just a run on five hits (four singles and a solo home run). Third baseman Sam Dove made a trio of highlight-reel plays in the first inning, and the Jackets turned an inning-double play in the eighth to keep the lead in check.
After Steve Wilkerson led off Clemson’s half of the first with a solo home run to make the score 2-1, Dove robbed the Tigers by charging a bunt from Thomas Brittle and firing to first in time, making a tough catch and throw on a Richie Shaffer grounder and then making a diving stop in the hole on Phil Pohl’s rocket for the final out.
“Sam makes those three plays and it really set the tone for the next two innings for me,” said Davies. “I was just able to get back in there, pound the zone getting some ground balls, some pop ups and some first-pitch outs. Those three plays really did help us. Especially that diving play, that was an unbelievable play by him.”
Rookies Daniel Spingola and Thomas Smith smashed back-to-back doubles in the second inning to make it 3-1, and two more runs came home in the third on an RBI from Daniel Palka, and Evans’ first of two doubles.
Tech chased Clemson starter Kevin Pohle after two innings, and reliever Scott Firth quieted the Jackets with 6 1/3 innings of relief. Firth allowed just four hits and a run, but Clemson had no answer for Davies and sophomore Alex Cruz.
Davies picked up his first win (1-3) of the season – and first since 2010 – allowing two hits and a run in his career-long six innings. The senior fanned three with one walk, and Cruz recorded his second three-inning save of the tournament, yielding three singles with two strikeouts, the last of which of Brad Felder ended the game.
Pohle (6-4) was tagged the loss for Clemson.
**Tech advances to the ACC Championship game for the first time since 2005, when the Jackets defeated Virginia, 4-3, to claim the program’s third league title in six years and seventh overall.
**Tech is 7-3 in ACC title games (3-1 under head coach Danny Hall, who took the helm in 1994) – winning in 2005, 2003, 2000, 1988, 1987, 1986 and 1985, and finishing as the runner-up in 1991 and 2004.
**The Jackets own seven conference championships, and only Clemson (nine) has more.
**Tech has scored 27 run in three games of the ACC Championship in Greensboro, after it took the Jackets the final seven games of the regular season to amass 27 runs, going 2-5 in those games.
**Sophomore C/DH Zane Evans continued his torrid tournament, with a 3-for-4 effort Saturday. In three games, Evans is hitting .500 (6-for-12) with four doubles, a home run, seven RBI and two runs.
**Sophomore reliever Alex Cruz picked up his second three-inning save of the tournament – the first two saves of his career. Coming into the postseason, Cruz had been credited with seven of Tech’s last 15 regular-season victories – all in relief (7-2).
**Senior Jake Davies made his fourth straight start on the mound, after his previous 54 career appearances were in relief. Davies is now 1-3 in 2012 (6-3 in his career), recording his first win since beating North Carolina on March 27, 2010