Georgia Tech and uga met at Turner Field on Tuesday for the 14th and last time. The teams are having quite different seasons -- although both face big challenges. The dwags needed a win to stay above .500 for the season but were coming off a big series win over Missouri on the road. Tech had just salvaged a crucial win in Charlottesville and came in needing a victory to avoid a season sweep at their rival’s hands. Both teams also had to consider important conference series starting on Thursday, which induced a bullpen issue. On pre-announced staff days for both teams, Burton Dulaney (2-3, 4.72) would start for Tech against Andrew Gist (3-2, 5.04). Gist started and pitched the game of his life against Tech earlier in the season at Russ Chandler, getting the win on eight innings of one-run ball. He appeared in relief in Athens with much less success, giving up four earned runs on five hits in two innings against the Jackets.
The dwags drew first blood in the bottom of the first on two singles and a stolen base to take a 1-0 lead. It took Tech until the third inning to score, when a Kel Johnson single drove in Connor Justus with two outs. Then, Tristin "Doubles Machine" English drove in Matt Gonzalez and Johnson with his team leading 19th two-bagger of the season to make it 3-1. It was Tech’s first lead of the season against uga.
Cole Pitts came in to pitch the third. He gave up a one-out single to Nick King but quickly picked him off first before throwing another pitch. Justus later made a superb play on a soft grounder behind the mound for the third out. Cole also worked a scoreless fourth despite putting two on with control problems.
Kevin Smith pitched for the dwags in the top of the fifth and benefitted from some great outfield catches in a 1-2-3 inning. Keyton Gibson came in for Tech to pitch the bottom half of the inning. He immediately got into serious trouble, allowing a single and double. After a shallow fly ball out, one run scored on a groundout to make it 3-2 with a runner on third and two outs. He got out of the inning still leading with a weak grounder to the mound.
In Tech's half of the sixth, English got his 20th double with one out, but could not advance. In the bottom half, a single and error on Gonzalez put a runner on second with no outs. After two outs and a walk, a single to right tied the game at 3-apiece. After another walk, the bases were loaded and Gibson was having control problems. Burton then got an inning-ending strikeout on Nick King with a full count.
Ben Parr came in to pitch to uga in the seventh. After a single, pop out, and stolen base, Zac Ryan came in with one out and the go-ahead run on second. A deep fly put the runner on third with two outs for Daniel Nichols -- brother of former Yellow Jacket Thomas Nichols. He grounded out to Bailey to keep it tied.
Leading off the Tech eighth, Gonzalez got his 282nd career hit to tie Tony Plagman for seventh all time, but could not advance. In the bottom half of the inning, a walk and sac bunt put the go-ahead run on second with one out. A groundout to Bailey moved him to third with two outs for Mitchell Webb, who popped out to Craport in foul territory.
In Tech's ninth, Blake Cairnes came in to pitch for the dwags. Craport greeted him with a beautiful bunt single. He got to second on a Ryan Peurifoy sac bunt, but could advance no further. Ryan got the top of the order out 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth to go to extra innings. He was looking like the 2015 Zac Ryan. In the Jackets’ 10th, Bailey got a one-out single to get things started. Then, in his last ever at-bat against the dwags, Matt Gonzalez went deep into the Turner Field left field seats to put the Jackets ahead, 5-3! Kel Johnson’s solo blast deep into the left field seats gave Tech one more insurance run heading into the bottom of the 10th.
Zac Ryan forced three groundouts to secure the win, and it was "Up with the White and Gold, down with the red and black." What a sweet win! There is so much to like for Tech fans:
*Beating uga and avoiding a sweep. As the SEC network helpfully pointed out, only the Jackets’ volleyball team had managed to beat the dwags this year in any sport until tonight. The win made Tech 9-3 against in-state opponents this year.
*Matt Gonzalez! Will he ever be missed. What a thrill to hit a homerun at Turner Field on his last at-bat against our rivals. The homer moved him into a tie for sixth in career hits with Steven Blackwood.
*Zac Ryan looks like he has gotten serious about being a contributor after a rough year. He’s needed.
*Tech pitching in general avoided the Jacket-killing big innings. Several times it looked like the dwags were setting one up, but the Jackets only gave up one run three times.
Now, to take care of ACC business against BC.