May 31, 2009
ATLANTA – Freshman Mark Pope pitched five innings of shutout relief to preserve the win, and Georgia Tech made its seven-run second inning standup as the 13th-ranked Yellow Jackets eliminated Elon, 8-4, Sunday afternoon in the NCAA Atlanta Regional baseball tournament at Russ Chandler Stadium.
Tech (37-18-1) advanced to Sunday night’s championship game against Southern Miss (37-23), which defeated the Jackets, 10-7, Saturday night. The Golden Eagles can win the regional with a victory, while Tech, which has made the championship round in each of its last five regional appearances, must beat USM twice to win the tournament.
The Yellow Jackets improved to 2-6 in elimination games in NCAA regionals since 2000 (20-19 all-time), and are attempting to win a regional out of the loser’s bracket for the first time.
Pope, Tech’s closer for most of the year, achieved career highs in innings and strikeouts (7) in earning his team-leading eighth save of the year, but first since March 28. He walked one and scattered three hits, two in the eighth inning when the Phoenix mounted a two-out rally.
Tech took advantage of four walks and a balk from Elon starter Daniel Britt (8-1) in the inning. Chris House also contributed a run-scoring single, Chase Burnette got an RBI on a bases-loaded walk, and Jason Haniger one on fielder’s choice grounder. Matt Skole added a home run, his 17th of the season, in the fifth for Tech.
Bennett Davis continued his hot hotting for Elon, getting a pair of hits and two RBI. His two-out single drove in two runs for Elon (41-18) in the first. But the lead was short-lived after the Yellow Jackets put up their seven runs in the second.
Pat Irvine’s sacrifice fly gave Elon one run back in the third, and the Phoenix had a chance for a lot more in the fourth when they loaded the bases with one out. But Davies knocked down Chase Austin’s chopper that was headed for center field and threw out the runner coming home. Then he struck out Irvine to end the threat.
Three singles, including Dallas Tarleton’s RBI single, netted the Phoenix a run in the fifth to bring them within 7-4, Skole’s homer restored Tech’s lead to four at 8-4.
Tech tried in vain to add to its lead, getting the leadoff man on in the next three innings with a pair of doubles and a walk, but could not score.
Both starting pitchers had trouble finding the strike zone early in the game, with 12 walks being issued by both teams combined in the first four innings.
Von Tersch walked six batters in the first three innings, allowing three runs on just one hit. When he walked the first batter of the fourth inning, he was lifted for Davies.
Britt, who pitched the final inning and earned a save in the Phoenix’s elimination game victory over Georgia State Saturday, lasted just 1 1/3 innings. After setting the Yellow Jackets down in order in the first, he walked two batters and committed a balk in the second while the Jackets capitalized with three hits against him. Britt was charged with five runs.