May 24, 2008
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Ben Paulsen’s grand slam in the top of the seventh inning helped lift No. 8 seed Clemson to a 10-4 ACC Baseball Tournament win over No. 5 seed Georgia Tech Saturday at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
Neither Tech (39-19) or Clemson (31-27-1) will not play in Sunday’s ACC championship game – Miami or NC State will play Virginia in that contest – but the Yellow Jackets and Tigers were playing for much more than a consolation prize Saturday. Tech remains in search of its 40th win of the season and still has hopes of hosting an NCAA regional next week. Clemson’s win Saturday may go a long way toward the Tigers’ chances of receiving an NCAA Tournament bid.
The Yellow Jackets and Tigers entered the seventh inning tied, 3-3, when the bottom fell out for Tech. Clemson used two walks from reliever Zach Von Tersch and a Georgia Tech error to load the bases with no outs, setting the stage for Paulsen’s towering, game-winning blast.
“That was certainly not what we wanted to do down here today,” head coach Danny Hall said. “It seems like the last two games, every time we’ve made a mistake we’ve given up a home run. We made it easier for them by walking people and we had a hard time getting the big hit ourselves.”
Georgia Tech closed the game to 7-4 – and missed a golden opportunity to pull even closer – in the bottom of the seventh. After loading the bases with no outs, Charlie Blackmon, who singled to lead-off the inning, scored. But Tiger reliever Casey Harman got Tech’s Tony Plagman to ground into a double play, ending the Yellow Jacket threat.
“It’s kind of disappointing the way things ended,” Hall said. “But, we’ve had a great regular season and I hope we’ll be rewarded on Monday (when the NCAA Tournament pairings are announced) to keep playing.”
Georgia Tech jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Blackmon, who has swung a hot bat all week, led off the game with a single and moved to second on a failed pickoff attempt. Blackmon scored on a Derek Dietrich two-out single.
Yellow Jacket starter Eddie Burns cruised through the first two and two-thirds innings, but made a couple of mistakes in the top of the third inning. Burns issued a two-out walk to Mike Freeman, then surrendered a two-run home run to Jeff Schaus as Clemson took a 2-1 lead.
Tech designated hitter Thomas Nichols put Georgia Tech back in front, 3-2, in the fourth. After Tony Plagman reached base via fielders choice, Nichols lined a two-out line drive over the right-field wall off of Clemson starter Trey Delk.
The Tigers evened the score 3-3 in the top of the sixth when Wilson Boyd led off the inning with a solo homer off of Burns, who left the game after six solid innings.
Blackmon (3-for-4) and Dietrich (3-for-5) led the Yellow Jackets offensively. Patrick Long (2-for-4) also had a multi-hit day. Burns had a solid effort on the mound, giving up six hits and three runs in six innings.
Georgia Tech, a sure bet to get an NCAA Tournament bid, will find out Sunday at 7 p.m. if it will be one of 16 schools hosting an NCAA regional next week. The 64-team NCAA Tournament pairings will be announced on Monday.
“Certainly, it’s up to the NCAA (if Tech is awarded with the hosting of a regional),” Hall said. “We have one of the best facilities in the country. I think our league is a great league. It’s the No. 1-ranked league in the country. The ACC has a lot of teams capable of playing deep into the tournament. It would be nice if they reward us, but we have no way of knowing if that will happen.”