The Yellow Jackets (36-24), who have won five consecutive games overall, jumped to a big early lead, survived a Hurricane comeback in the middle innings and salted it away the program’s eighth title down the stretch.
“I’m just so proud of my team,” said head coach Danny Hall, who improved to 4-1 in ACC title games. “I thought they played great baseball all week. This is, in my mind, one of the toughest tournaments in the country when you have eight great teams fighting for the championship. To get through that thing 4-0 coming in as the eight-seed just says a lot about my team and what they did this week. I can not be more proud of a group of guys.”
The victory has secured Tech a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the 26th time in the last 28 years — only Florida State and Miami have been to more in that span.
The Jackets, who were hitting .310 as a team in the tournament, wasted little time getting the bats going. Jumping on sixth-seeded Miami (36-21) starter Javi Salas in the first inning, the first six batters reached base on two doubles, three singles and a walk. The first four scored thanks to consecutive RBIs from Davies, Daniel Palka, Zane Evans and former Calhoun High standout Mott Hyde.
Another Davies RBI — his 13th of the tournament — gave Tech a 5-1 lead in the second. The Jackets appeared to be running away with it when Hyde pummeled a ball deep down the left-field line for his second homer of the tournament, making the score 6-1 in the third.
But the Miami bullpen finally settled things, and the offense began to chip away at the lead. After getting an RBI single from Brad Fieger in the first, he drove in another during a two-run, two-hit third inning that chased Tech starter Josh Heddinger.
A Chance Mack RBI in the fifth pulled Miami closer, and the Hurricanes made it a 6-5 game when Michael Broad launched a lead-off home run off reliever Jarrett Didrick in the sixth.
But Didrick, another former Calhoun High standout was outstanding in four innings of relief, allowing two hits and two runs, and picking up his second win of the year (2-0). Didrick rolled a key 4-6-3 double play to get out of trouble in the third, fired a 1-2-3 fourth, allowed a run in the fifth, and got three outs in succession after Broad’s homer in the sixth.
It was Evans’ show from there.
With Tech clinging to a one-run lead, and having squandered opportunities with the bases loaded in the second and fifth innings, and leaving 16 on base in the game, Evans drove a two-run single to center in the seventh that gave the Jackets breathing room at 8-5.
Evans took the hill for the final three innings, and nailed down his team-leading sixth save of the season by getting the final nine outs in order.
“I didn’t anticipate putting him in that early,” said Hall. “But when he went in the game, the game was over. He dominated the game on the mound and his two-run single gave us some breathing room. You could just feel the air go out of their dugout when he started throwing.”
Sam Dove was 3-for-4 and scored twice, while Davies, Palka, Evans and Hyde each chipped in two of the Jackets’ 15 hits. Tech finished the tournament hitting .329 as a team, slugged .580 with 13 doubles, a triple and seven home runs. Tech out-scored the opposition 35-15 in four games.
Davies drove in 11 runs, two shy of the all-time tournament record, and Evans knocked in 10.
“I thought we played great baseball all week,” said Hall. “We played our best baseball. We got timely hits when we needed them, we made plays when we needed to, we got pitches when we needed to, we got contributions from everybody. Things just clicked.”
Davies was named the tournament MVP, and he was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Evans (catcher), Thomas Smith (second base) and Brandon Thomas (outfield). It is the first time since 2006 that Tech has had an all-tournament team selection.
Salas was on the hook for the loss (6-3), giving up six hits and five runs in 1 1/3 innings, and five pitchers followed him out of the bullpen.
Jackets given No. 2 seed
in Gainesville regional
Georgia Tech, champion of the Atlantic Coast Conference, is no stranger to the NCAA Tournament, but being on the road is a rarity. The Yellow Jackets earned their 26th NCAA berth in the last 28 years, are the No. 2-seed in the Gainesville Regional and will face No. 3-seed College of Charleston on Friday.
The 2012 NCAA Tournament pairings were announced Monday afternoon on ESPNU, less than 24 hours after Tech beat Miami, 8-5, to complete one of the most improbable ACC Championship runs in the tournament’s 39-year history.
Florida is nation’s overall No. 1-seed, and battles No. 4-seed Bethune-Cookman Friday as well. The winner of the four-team, double-elimination regional faces the Raleigh Regional winner in Super Regional play, June 8-11.
“We’re in the regional that has the No. 1-seed in the country so obviously a tough draw,” said head coach Danny Hall, who has guided Tech to the NCAA Tournament in 17 of his 19 years on the Flats. “College of Charleston is a Southern Conference team that we played here in the Super Regional in 2006 and they’ve had a great program over the last couple of years.”
Since 1985, only two other teams in the nation have been to more NCAA Tournaments than Tech – Miami and Florida State, with 28 appearances each.
The Jackets, who improved to 36-24 overall after going 4-0 in five days in Greensboro, earned the final spot in the ACC tournament on the last day of the regular season. Tech then became the first-ever No. 8-seed to beat a No. 1-seed in ACC Tournament history (5-4 win over Florida State), then posted the most lopsided win by an eighth-seed in tournament history (17-5 win over Virginia), then became just third-ever eighth-seed to reach the title game (5-1 win over Clemson), and capped the weekend by becoming the first-ever eighth-seed to win it all (8-5 win over Miami).