The outlook for Georgia Tech’s baseball team’s season improved Saturday night. It looked even better Sunday.
After a five-run rally in the ninth inning beat North Carolina Saturday, the Yellow Jackets took the series Sunday with a 3-0 win Sunday to take the series 2-1. Tech, ranked No. 13 by Baseball America, jumped from No. 9 to No. 8 in estimated RPI and bettered its chances of earning one of the eight national bids, which would keep the Jackets at home through the NCAA super regionals. More importantly, it gave a lift to a team that, aside from a non-conference series sweep last weekend, had been sliding.
“It’s a huge win for us momentum-wise, especially last night when we got the big win,” first baseman Jake Davies said. “Hopefully, that’ll carry over into the NCAA tournament and the ACC tournament.”
Prior to their three-game sweep of Illinois-Chicago and Tuesday win over Savannah State, Tech was 10-10 in its last 20 games, including series losses to Clemson and Virginia. Davies said he thought the team had lacked focus and had gotten lazy. Going into the bottom of the ninth Saturday night, Tech was down 8-4 and three outs away from losing the series to the No. 17 Tar Heels.
Zane Evans led off with a single. Andrew Smith was relieved by Michael Morin.
Kyle Wren doubled, moving Evans to third.
(After Evans singled, the game production staff played the “Imperial Death March” from Star Wars, and kept doing so throughout the inning. Funny.)
Jacob Esch walked, loading the bases. R.C. Orlan relieved Morin.
Matt Skole struck out for the first out.
Davies singled, scoring Evans and Wren. Esch scored and Davies went to second on a fielding error. Score 8-7. Connor Winn went in to pinch run for Davies.
(Davies, who had struck out three times prior to the ninth inning, said Orlan went heavy on fastballs in striking out Skole. “My first thought was he’s going to try to be cocky and try to throw a fastball past me,” Davies said. “Luckily he did and I was preparing for it and I got the barrel on it.”)
Greg Holt relieved Orlan.
Winn went to third on a wild pitch, Sam Dove walked.
Mott Hyde singled, scoring Winn and putting Dove on second. Score now 8-8.
Daniel Palka pulled the first pitch down the first-base line to score Dove and end the game 9-8.
“It’s just sometimes in baseball, there’s just, one guy gets one and another guy gets on and something just clicks,” Davies said.
Worth noting: It was Tech’s first walk-off win of the year. Likewise, UNC was 35-0 this season going into the ninth with the lead. Palka, who hit an eighth-inning home run to make the score 8-4, was 4-for-5.
Sunday, Buck Farmer and Luke Bard combined on a five-hit shutout, the first time all season that the Tar Heels have been shut out. It was coach Danny Hall’s 300th ACC win, making him only the fourth coach in league history to reach that milestone.
Tech is 37-15 and 20-7 in the ACC. UNC is 40-12 and 17-10. The Tar Heels finish the regular season next weekend at home with top-ranked Virginia, while Tech will go on the road to Virginia Tech (29-23, 10-17).
Davies said the plan is to “beat them three times and come back and win the ACC tournament. That’s our outlook right now.”
Pretty good outlook.