June 12, 2004
ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia found the perfect symbol for its improbable run to the College World Series – a home run by a light-hitting, backup outfielder.
Jonathan Wyatt hit that two-run homer in the eighth – the first of his freshman season – and the Bulldogs rallied past Georgia Tech 5-3 Saturday to sweep the NCAA super regional.
Georgia (43-21) advanced to the College World Series for the second time in four years and the fourth trip overall.
“Just a great collective effort by these players,” coach David Perno said.
During his career at Harrison High School in metro Atlanta, Wyatt had a total of only three home runs, including one as a senior. He had none in his first 44 games with the Bulldogs, so when he came up with the score tied at 3, he appeared an unlikely candidate to hit one in that situation.
But on this day, with this team, anything was possible.
“I kind of had a feeling something was going to happen,” Georgia shortstop Justin Holmes said.
Wyatt took a ball, then drove the next pitch from Brian Burks (8-6) well over the wall in right-center. Jason Jacobs, who was hit by a pitch, scored ahead of Wyatt, who was mobbed by his teammates when he crossed the plate.
In the starting lineup for only the 20th game this season, Wyatt came through.
“At the start of the game, they threw me a lot inside fastballs,” he said. “That at-bat, I was looking for a pitch. My entire focus was to drive the ball, that was all I could think about.”
Bo Lanier (4-1) pitched the eighth in relief of Sean Ruthven, who allowed only Mike Trapani’s two-run double in seven innings. That gave the Yellow Jackets (44-21) a 2-1 lead, but Georgia responded with two runs each in the seventh and eighth to sweep the series.
In April, the Bulldogs lost two in a row at LSU to fall to 21-15, and they were four games under .500 in the Southeastern Conference. An easy 12-4 victory the next day started their season-ending run to a share of the SEC title and a home NCAA regional.
There, they survived two games on the final day against Clemson, winning the finale with three home runs over the final two innings. Two more victories over Georgia Tech has them headed to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series.
Georgia is 22-6 since that second loss to LSU.
“I dream of this every day,” Holmes said. “If you can’t see it happen, it’s not going to happen.”
Wyatt, inserted into the lineup in place of Kyle Keen, finished 3-for-4, and Holmes, Josh Smith and Bobby Felmy added two hits apiece for Georgia. Will Startup pitched the ninth for his 10th save and his second in as many days – he went the final three innings Friday.
Georgia Tech had only four hits and made four errors, bringing its total to six in the two games.
“As it usually happens, someone you least expect comes up big for them,” Yellow Jackets coach Danny Hall said. “I don’t know what it was, we just did things that were not characteristic of us.”
Ruthven retired the first 11 batters and had a no-hitter heading into the fifth, with Georgia leading 1-0. He walked Clifton Remole to start the inning, then an out later, Whit Robbins also walked. After Tyler Greene flied out to right, Trapani lined a double over the outstretched glove of right fielder Joey Side.
Remole and Robbins scored easily to put the Yellow Jackets ahead 2-1.
In the seventh, the Bulldogs got the lead back on a couple of misplays by Georgia Tech. Three straight singles loaded the bases, and then Kown threw a wild pitch that allowed Wyatt to score the tying run.
After Marshall Szabo popped out on a 3-0 pitch, Josh Morris drew an intentional walk. That finished Kown and brought in Burks, who got Side to hit a grounder to Trapani at third.
Trapani stepped on the base to force Holmes, but his throw to first to complete the double play was wild. Robbins chased the ball down and threw high to the plate, allowing the runners to advance.
Smith scored on the play to make it 3-2.
“Errors happen,” Trapani said. “If we had mental errors, I would’ve been worried. It just didn’t go our way this weekend.”
Georgia Tech tied it again in the eighth, when Trapani scored on a forceout by Steven Blackwood.
Ruthven, the son of former major leaguer Dick Ruthven, went seven innings and struck out five. Dick Ruthven was in the crowd watching his son.
“I know I only threw seven innings, but I felt like I threw 10 or 11,” Sean Ruthven said. “I was trying not to think too much about Omaha. I didn’t care if I gave up 10 runs as long as we won.”