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Baseball: Georgia Tech Narrowly Misses Road Sweep of Clemson, Wins Series with Hot Hitting

The series win was the Yellow Jackets' first over a conference opponent in nearly a month.

Georgia Tech Kel Johnson Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics

The Jackets (8-9 ACC) went into the rabid fandom of Clemson’s Doug Kingsmore Stadium needing a series win to avoid falling out of position to qualify for the ACC Tournament. The Tigers were equally needy, holding the 10th and final spot at 8-10. The previous few days saw the Tigers score a beatdown win over uga, while the Jackets had split games against Mercer and Georgia State. A road win over a Clemson team with an RPI of 10 would really help Tech in that key metric.

Clemson has a new head coach this year, Monte Lee, previously of College of Charleston. Former Georgia Tech and current Clemson Athletic Director Dan Radakovich fired long time HC Jack Leggett after the 2015 season.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E
#26 Georgia Tech (25-13, 8-10) 0 0 1 0 2 3 1 0 0 0 7 14 3
#23 Clemson (26-12, 9-10) 0 2 0 0 0 0 5 0 0 1 8 9 1

Georgia Tech sent its best starter, Brandon Gold, to the mound with a record of 4-2 and an ERA of 2.67. He would be opposed by lefty Charlie Barnes (3-4, 4.67).

Trouble for Tech came in the bottom of the 2nd, with a walk and a pair of errors turning into an early 2-0 Clemson lead with runners on the corners and only 1 out. Gold managed to work out of the jam with a strikeout and a groundout.

Connor Justus answered in the top of the 3rd inning with a long homer to left, his second game in a row with a long ball and his 4th of the year. The Tigers’ lead was only 2-1.

With two outs in the top of the 5th, Matt Gonzalez and Kel Johnson drove in a pair of runs to give the Jackets a 3-2 lead. Brandon worked a very welcome 1-2-3 bottom 5th to become win eligible if Tech could hold on.

With one out and two on base, Clemson went to reliever Brooks Crawford in the 6th. Arden Pabst greeted him rudely with a first-pitch 2-run double to left center. Pabst now has more extra base hits than he did in his first two seasons, 20 vs 18. A Wade Bailey sac fly later scored Pabst to stretch the Jackets’ lead to 6-2.

In the 7th, an error and back-to-back singles loaded the bases quickly for the Jackets with no outs. An RBI single from Trevor Craport kept the bases loaded and further stretched Georgia Tech’s lead to 7-2. (A former relief pitcher, Craport continues to be a real contributor for Georgia Tech.) Although the bases were loaded and there were no outs, the rally was stopped by a double play and a strike out, leaving the score 7-2 in favor of the Yellow Jackets. Had they missed a chance at a knockout?

Disaster struck in Clemson’s 7th, as first baseman Chris Williams got his second hit off Gold, before Chase Pender got one of his own with two outs. A wet grass slip caused Peurifoy to drop a pop-up behind 2nd that would have ended the inning, allowing the Tigers an unearned run and cutting Georgia Tech’s lead to 7-3. A hit by pitch, a bases-clearing double, and an RBI single later, the game was suddenly tied at 7-7 -- that dropped fly ball was looming huge! The inning mercifully ended when Arden Pabst threw out a base stealing attempt. Gold deserved better, but 3 errors had led to 6 unearned Tiger runs, and despite out-hitting Clemson 13-6 through 7, the score was tied.

After neither team got anything going in the 8th inning, lightning lit the sky and caused a halt. Why couldn’t it have come 45 minutes earlier?

The game would resume 18 hours, 43 minutes later, as a tie game in the top of the 9th -- a sort of baseball "sudden death" game. Georgia Tech’s batters were retired in order in the top of the frame, before Clemson stranded a runner at third in the bottom of the ninth to send the game to extra innings.

After a limited rally by the Yellow Jackets in the top of the 10th, the Tigers won in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the 10th, with a one-out RBI single. Final score: a 8-7 Clemson win. This one hurt.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
#26 Georgia Tech (26-13, 9-10) 4 2 0 5 2 0 0 3 0 16 21 1
#23 Clemson (26-13, 9-11) 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 8 3

Cole Pitts (3-2, 5.68 ERA) would pitch for Georgia Tech in the 2nd game, going against RHP Alex Eubanks (2-3, 4.56 ERA). The Jackets now were in 10th and last tournament spot in the ACC.

Maybe the Jackets got really mad in between the games. A Kel Johnson RBI single and Tristin English’s 2nd home run this week (and as a collegian) gave Tech a comfortable 4-0 lead. Joey Bart reached on an error and Trevor Craport singled, leading Clemson to pull their starting pitcher after only 2 recorded outs. The move to Jake Higginbotham worked, with a quick double play ending the top of the first. Cole Pitts was greeted rudely with a Chase Pinder lead off home run, reminding the Jackets nothing would be easy. Three more Tigers reached, leaving Tech fans feeling queasy, but a pair of quick outs ended the inning with the Jackets leading 4-1.

Tech continued in the 2nd with RBIs from Wade Bailey and Kel Johnson, pushing the Yellow Jackets’ lead to 6-1. That stood until the top of the 4th inning, which saw the floodgates open.

After a pair of singles and a fielder’s choice put runners on the corners, Joey Bart hit into what looked like an easy double play. Instead, the Tigers’ 2nd baseman dropped the ball, scoring Gonzalez. A balk moved runners to second and third for Craport, who cashed in with a 2-run single. A walk to Stallings resulted in Clemson going to the bullpen for a second time, this time for Garrett Lovorn. Peurifoy greeted the right-hander with the team’s 13th hit of the game, an RBI single. Another RBI single from Connor Justus and a walk from Bailey gave Georgia Tech 5 runs in the inning, still with 1 out and bases loaded for Gonzalez, who had scored earlier in the frame. Unfortunately, he hit into an inning-ending 6-3 double play, but the damage had been done as the Jackets had amassed an 11-1 lead. But again, would it be enough?

A pair of solo home runs from Tristin English (his 2nd of the game) and Trevor Craport continued to extend the Jackets’ lead to 13-1 after the top of the 5th. Meanwhile, Ben Parr had taken over for Pitts in the bottom of the 3rd inning, and gave up only 1 hit and 1 walk with no runs and 4 strikeouts in 5 innings of work. Clemson reliever Mike Goren, making his first career appearance, worked scoreless 6th and 7th innings before Justus drove in Stallings with a ground out and Carter Hall then smashed his first home run as a collegiate, stretching Georgia Tech’s lead to 15. With the damage having already been done, Buford HS alumnus Keyton Gibson came in to pitch the 8th for Georgia Tech before Bobby Gauvreau came in to close out the game. The Jackets’ total domination had long since emptied Doug Kingsmore Stadium of Tiger fans, with Tech rolling to a final score of 16-1. Tech majorly out-hit the Tigers 21-8 over the course of the game.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
#26 Georgia Tech (27-13, 10-10) 4 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 7 10 0
#23 Clemson (26-14, 9-12) 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 2 5 7 0

For the 2nd game in a row, the Jackets chased off the Tigers’ starter with only one out in the first. This time, two walks and four hits turned into a quick 4-0 lead for the Yellow Jackets. Clemson starter Riley Gilliam gave way to Clate Schmidt, who managed to stop the bleeding for the time being.

Georgia Tech started Jake Lee only four days after his 5-inning win over Ga State. After three innings, Lee had a shutout going with only one hit allowed.

After a 4th inning RBI single by Bailey made Georgia Tech’s lead 5-0, the Tigers struck in the bottom of the inning with back-to-back RBI singles before the threat could be snuffed out with Tech ahead 5-2. With Lee having started the game on short rest, Burton Dulaney entered in relief for the 5th, issuing back-to-back lead off walks before allowing a run on a sacrifice fly from Beer. Georgia Tech’s lead had been cut to 5-3.

Connor Justus hit a solo homer in the 6th to get that run back and Dulaney seemed to have overcome his shaky start with a pair of scoreless frames in the 6th and 7th innings. Tech got some insurance in the 8th when Peurifoy, who had been "a man on a mission" since his wet grass slip cost the Jackets the first game, drove in Stallings. Clemson reliever Alex Bostic came in to get the final two outs, but the Jackets now comfortably led 7-3.

Dulaney again walked himself into trouble in the home half of the 8th, loading the bases with two outs. Coach Hall brought in Micah Carpenter with one message – "Throw strikes!" Carpenter replied, "Yes sir," and quickly struck out Chris Williams to keep the Jackets up by 4.

Carpenter returned for the Clemson 9th and walked the first two Tigers he faced, bringing up the heart of Clemson’s batting order. Coach Hall had seen enough, and brought in closer Matthew Gorst. A Seth Beer single closed Clemson’s deficit to 7-4, and a walk to Chris Okey loaded the bases. Clemson then got an infield single from Reed Rohlman, making it 7-5 with the bases still loaded. Then, hot-hitting Tiger Eli White nailed Gorst in the seat of his pants with a line drive, though Gorst was able to recover and flipped home to get the 2nd out. On what turned out to be the game’s final at-bat, Gorst coaxed a grounder from Andrew Cox that he again handled for the final out, a Sunday victory, and a road series win. Wow!

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I can’t stress enough how important these two wins were. They may have saved Tech’s season. The Yellow Jackets moved up to 6th in the ACC (setting themselves up to avoid the dreaded play-in game), they boosted their RPI, and they gave themselves a huge confidence boost. A dropped pop-up was all that saved the Tigers from being swept, and they’re now in the tight spot that Tech has escaped, at least for now. I make Ryan Peurifoy my player of the weekend, going 6 for 8 with 4 RBI after his unfortunate error Friday.

Now, on to Athens Tuesday evening for the second leg of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate 2016.