May 31, 2008
ATHENS, Ga. – Brad Feltes’ two-out, two-run double in the eighth inning helped Georgia Tech beat Lipscomb, 6-3, advancing the Yellow Jackets into the championship round of the Athens NCAA Baseball Regional at Georgia’s Foley Field.
Georgia Tech (41-19) will play either Lipscomb or regional host Georgia (those two teams play Sunday at 2 p.m.) Sunday at 6 p.m. A win Sunday night would send the Yellow Jackets to a Super Regional next week. If Tech loses Sunday night, it would force a deciding game Monday at 7 p.m.
“I felt good when Feltes came up to the plate,” Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall said. “There’s probably not another guy I’d rather see up there than him. He’s been a clutch hitter all season.”
Feltes’ clutch hit in the eighth inning came off of Lipscomb reliever Kyle Tognazzini and broke a 3-3 tie. Between a three-run second inning and Tech’s two runs in the eighth, the Yellow Jackets were frustrated by Bison starter Brandon McClurg (6-6), who retired 16 of 17 batters during the stretch.
“McClurg really did a good job of mixing his pitches,” Hall said. “He really doesn’t throw anything straight. Everything moves and he can throw any of his pitches when he wanted to.”
The Yellow Jackets used strong pitching performances from starter Deck McGuire and relievers Taylor Wood and Brad Rulon, who combined to strike out eight and allow just seven Lipscomb base hits. Wood (3-0) earned the win in relief and Rulon picked up his seventh save, his second save in as many nights.
“I felt like our bullpen got some big outs,” Hall said. “Taylor Wood came in and got a big out. Before than, Deck (McGuire) had a big strikeout. I thought (Brad) Rulon did a great job of throwing strikes late in the game.”
Feltes (2 hits, 2 RBI), Jason Haniger (2 hits, 3 RBI) and Charlie Blackmon (2 hits, 1 RBI) accounted for six of Georgia Tech’s 11 base hits. Haniger and Blackmon have combined for 10 base hits in the first two games of the NCAA Tournament.
“I thought it was a great ballgame,” Hall said. “To Lipscomb’s credit, they battled back and got back in the game.”
Haniger gave Georgia Tech a 3-0 cushion early with a three-run home run in the second inning. Feltes was hit by a pitch and Thomas Nichols singled to put runners at the corners and set the stage for Haniger, who pounded out three base hits Friday night against Louisville.
McGuire, who was nearly flawless in his May 7th Foley Field appearance (an 11-1 win over Georgia), struggled somewhat in the second inning. He walked Blake Bratcher, gave up a single to Justin Sanders and one out later, hit Ryan Wilkins to load the bases. Bratcher scored on a ground ball by Branden Cadavid for the Bison’s first run of the game. McGuire, however, settled down to strike out Jorge Gutierrez to end the inning.
Lipscomb, the Atlantic Sun Conference champion, evened the score, 3-3, with a pair of runs off of McGuire in the bottom of the fifth. Gutierrez and Allen Bolden both singled to open the inning. One out later, Bratcher hit a two-run double, much to the delight of a vocal group of Bison fans who made the trek from Nashville to Athens.
Meanwhile, McClurg frustrated Tech hitters. The Bison right-hander retired 10 straight Yellow Jackets before Haniger singled with two outs in the seventh.
Lipscomb threatened to take the lead in the bottom of the seventh after Gutierrez led off the inning with a double. But McGuire roared back to strike out Bolden and Caleb Joseph. With his pitch count past 100, McGuire left the game with two outs, replaced by lefty Taylor Wood, who fanned Bratcher to end the Bison threat.
Feltes’ key eighth-inning hit came after Luke Murton and Derek Dietrich set the table with back-to-back singles. Tony Plagman’s line drive was caught for the second out of the inning, but it was enough to chase the crafty McClurg from the game. Tognazzini came in relief and was immediately greeted by Feltes’ two-run double.
“After he (Tognazzini) threw a strike, I didn’t want to get too far down in the count,” Feltes said. “He threw a pitch I was able to hit in the gap.
“As a kid, you dream of having situations like that.”
In Lipscomb’s half of the eighth, Justin Sanders led off the inning with a walk. After Shane Simpkins flied out to the warning track, Hall brought in Rulon, the right-handed closer, to face the right-handed hitting Ryan Wilkins. Rulon struck out Wilkins, then got Cadavid to fly out to left field to end the inning.
Tech added an insurance run in the top of the ninth to take a 6-3 lead. Patrick Long reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and scored on a line-drive single by Blackmon.
Blackmon made a key defensive play in the bottom of the ninth that helped hold off a late Bison rally. After Ben Williams singled to lead off the inning, Blackmon, playing right field, made a diving catch in the gap on a ball hit by Gutierrez.
To reach the championship round, Georgia Tech has defeated two conference champions – Louisville (Big East) and Lipscomb (Atlantic Sun).
Tech’s in-state rival, Georgia, held off elimination earlier Saturday when the Bulldogs beat Louisville, 9-8.
If Georgia beats Lipscomb Sunday afternoon, the Bulldogs will play Tech for the fourth time this season. The Yellow Jackets won two of three from Georgia during the regular season.
The winner of the Athens Regional will play the winner of the Raleigh (N.C.) Regional (either NC State, South Carolina or James Madison) in a Super Regional next week. The site for that Super Regional will be determined Monday.
“I’d rather be in this position than the alternative,” Hall said. “But we still have to win another game. We still need to win.”
– Blackmon extended his hitting streak to 10 games.
– Blackmon’s second base hit was his 96th of the season, tying for the 18th-most single-season hits in Tech history.
– Blackmon has 29 multi-hit games this season.
– Haniger’s second-inning home run was his 10th of the season. He becomes the fourth different Yellow Jacket with double-figure home runs this season.
– Haniger’s second-inning home run was Georgia Tech’s 92nd round-tripper of the season – the most by a Yellow Jacket team since 1998.
– Luke Murton has 25 doubles this season. Only Jay Payton (27) and Nomar Garciaparra (26) had more doubles for Tech in one season.
– Rulon’s save was his seventh of the season, tying for the 10th-most single-season saves in school history.
– Georgia Tech is 3-0 at Foley Field in 2008, including an 11-1 win over Georgia on May 7th.
– The Yellow Jackets are 2-2 all-time in NCAA Tournament play at Foley Field.
– Georgia Tech has earned an NCAA Tournament bid 22 times in the last 24 years.
– The Yellow Jackets are 56-47 all-time in NCAA Tournament play.
– Tonight’s game was the first meeting between Georgia Tech and Lipscomb in baseball in more than 40 years – since the 1967 season.