The Georgia Tech baseball team can clinch a spot in the ACC championship final and play for its first ACC title since 2005 with a win and Clemson loss Friday.
As a result of upsetting top-seeded Florida State Wednesday, a 5-4 win fueled by a pair of two-run home runs by Jake Davies, the eighth-seeded Jackets can gain the final by beating Virginia Friday at 11 a.m. and then having Florida State beat Clemson in the 3 p.m. game.
Tech will start freshman Cole Pitts, who has a 4.41 ERA but delivered in the most important game of the regular season. With the Jackets needing either a win or a Virginia Tech loss on the final day of the season, Pitts held No. 21 Miami to one run and two hits in seven innings to give the Jackets room for a 2-1 win last Saturday. That win clinched Tech’s spot in the eight-team ACC tournament. Without a league tournament berth, the Jackets’ chances of making the NCAA tournament would have been narrow at best.
However, with the win over Florida State alone – the Seminoles are ranked No. 1 in most polls – the Jackets almost certainly have secured an at-large berth, which would be their 26th appearance in 28 years. They can remove all guesswork by earning an automatic bid by winning the title, which would be the fourth for coach Danny Hall and easily his least expected.
“I don’t think [Florida State] took us very seriously, and my idea is that we were a strong eight seed coming in anyways,” Davies said. “We can score runs, and as long as the pitching helps out and keeps us in the game, I think we have a chance of winning two or maybe three games here.”
Tech will face Scott Silverstein, who started in Virginia’s 4-2 win over the Jackets May 12. Silverstein pitched four innings, giving up both runs on three hits.
Pitts started the following day, a 5-4 Tech win. Pitts made it 3 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on six hits and walking three.
Alex Cruz won the game in relief, going 5 2/3 innings with one run allowed.
Getting the help they need from Florida State seems a reasonable expectation. The Seminoles will send ace Brandon Leibrandt – from Marist and the son of former Braves pitcher Charlie Leibrandt – to pitch against Clemson.
Leibrandt is 6-2 with a 2.93 ERA. It bears mention that the Tigers pounded on Leibrandt, scoring four runs (all earned) in 5 2/3 innings two weeks ago in a 7-2 Clemson win.
Tech will be out of the running should it lose to the Cavaliers. Virginia could do no worse, and Tech no better than 2-1. The Cavaliers would win a three-way tiebreaker (regular-season conference winning percentage) and a two-team tiebreaker (head-to-head).
Should Tech lose to Virginia, the Jackets would still have a chance to make Sunday’s championship game.
Friday’s game will be streamed online at ESPN 3 and on the ACC’s regional sports networks (Fox Sports South in Atlanta).
P.S. I’ll be following the game intermittently here – feel free to join in.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog