By: Greg Waters
Chris Epps’ three-run blast was all the run support Dominic Leone and David Haselden needed as the Clemson (40-17) pitching duo combined for a six-hit shutout of third-seeded Georgia Tech (39-18). The 9-0 win was Clemson’s 26 in its last 31 games and marks the first time since June 1, 2008 that Georgia Tech has been shutout; a span of 177 games.
The Jackets had their chances.
With one out in the first Jacob Esch drew a full-count walk and advanced to third on Matt Skole’s single. Jake Davies reached on a four-pitch base-on-balls to load the bases for Sam Dove. But Dove grounded into a fielder’s choice that force Esch at home leaving the bases loaded but this time with two out for Daniel Palka. Palka could not deliver going down swinging after a six-pitch at bat.
“We had a lot of chances early to score and we didn’t do enough little things whether it was having a runner on third and trying to get him in — we had a leadoff triple and couldn’t score with nobody out,” said Jacket skipper Danny Hall. “We had the bases loaded and hit a ground ball to third so we had our chances early to at least get on the board and get the game going in a different direction.”
As so often happen, missed opportunities come back to bite and in the fourth inning, Epps delivered his crushing blow. Brad Miller led off the frame with a ground out. Will Lamb singled and Richie Shaffer was set down via the K. Jeff Schaus’ single advanced Lamb to third and extended the inning for Epps.
“I took the first pitch, which was a fastball away. [Mark Pope] had gotten me with some change-ups earlier that were good pitches, so I just wanted to make sure I saw some pitches this at-bat. I just put a good swing on the 2-1 fastball.”
The Tigers added a run in the top of the seventh and five insurance runs in the ninth inning.
Pope (11-4) suffered the loss, yielding nine hits, four runs, and two walks with three strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work. Leone improved to 6-2 on the season.
“I thought we played a real complete game today,” said Clemson Coach Jack Leggett. “There were a couple opportunities in the first, second, and third innings and we came up dry a little bit. But, I thought we took some good swings. Chris (Epps’) home run really broke the ice for us, and then I thought our pitching was stellar. I feel good about how we swung the bats and about how patient we were early.”
The Tigers will be back on the diamond today for critical match-up with Florida State. That game is slated to begin at 3:00 PM. Georgia Tech meets NC State in Thursday’s nightcap.
Game 2: #1 Virginia 13 #8 Wake Forest 1
The seventh inning stretch ended up being the post-game exit as Virginia clobbered 8th-seeded Wake Forest 13-1, employing the ACC Tournaments 10-run mercy rule after 6 ½ innings.
Tyler Wilson was superb going 6 1/3, yielding just one earned run on two hits while fanning 12 of the 23 batters he faced. Cody Winiarski went the rest of the way setting the only two batters he faced on five pitches.
What was even more refreshing for Cavalier fans was seeing the clubs’ offense return to life after a six game hiatus.
Leadoff man Chris Taylor entered the tournament in a 3-for-24 funk but busted out of it against Wake going 3-4, including two extra base hits, scoring a run while adding 3 RBI. Leading RBI man Steven Proscia was in an ever deeper hole coming to the week on 1-for-19 stretch but he
matched Taylor’s effort posting his fourth three-hit game of the season, finishing the afternoon one shy of the cycle with a home run, double and a triple.
Proscia and Taylor weren’t the only Cavaliers to break out of a late season slump. Jared King and Kenny Swab also had three hit afternoons and John Barr added 3 RBI. King tied an ACC Tournament single-game record with three doubles. In all, the Cavaliers pounded out nine extra base hits. It certainly caught the attention of Wake head man Tom Walter.
“[Virginia] did a nice job offensively, all the way around. From the first inning on, they were putting good clean swings and we were elevating pitches today. Brian Holmes is a much better pitcher than what you saw, so certainly we were elevating pitches and that didn’t help but give credit to their hitters.”
Holmes (3-4) suffered the defeat giving up 8 runs (5 earned) on nine hits.
The Hoos began the scoring barrage from their first at bat of the game as leadoff hitter Chris Taylor double and advanced to third on a wild pitch. John Barr’s liner to right field was all the speedy Taylor needed to score and stake Virginia to one-run lead.
The Deacons tied the score in the top of the second of Mac Williamson’s solo shot over the left-field wall. Virginia respond however with three more runs in the bottom of the frame off Kenny Swab’s one-out single, advancing to second when David Coleman weak grounded was mishandled by Wake shortstop Pat Blair. Swab and Coleman advanced on Reed Gragnani’s ground out and Keith Werman drew a base-on-balls to load the bases with two outs. That set up Chris Taylor for his second double of the game, the 3-RBI variety. John Barr flied out to conclude the inning.
Virginia added two more runs in third, three in fifth and four in the sixth inning to put the contest out of reach.
It was obviously a tremendous offensive output by a number of guys in our lineup and Tyler Wilson – every time this team has needed him to step up after a loss all year long, he has responded and pitched some good ballgames,” said Cavalier skipper Brian O’Connor. “It was a complete team effort and we are just happy that we won a game and hopefully we can get another win on Friday.”
Wake Forest and Virginia will take today off and return to action on Friday; Virginia at 11:00 AM when they’ll face the Miami Hurricanes while Wake takes on UNC in an evening tilt.
Game Three : #7 NC State 7 #2 Florida State 0
Florida State’s Achilles heel reared its ugly head in the Seminoles opening game of the ACC Tournament as defending ACC Champions were shutout by North Carolina State (34-23) 7-0.
As we noted in our Tournament preview Wednesday “The question for [Mike] Martin is how far can his offense take his team? This is a good offensive squad but it is not complemented by a reliable starting rotation.” That was abundantly evident Wednesday evening. The pitching was poor and the offense could not pick up the slack against States Cory Mazzoni.
Mazzoni was stellar for the Wolfpack going seven shutout innings, scattering four hits, fanning nine Seminole batters while giving up one walk.
“Tonight was one of those nights where all four of my pitches were working for me,” said Mazzoni. “I was able to work my curveball and get ahead of a lot of batters. I pounded the zone and let my defense work for me tonight.”
Mazzoni got tremendous glove work from his defense and pounded the strike zone with his fastball coupled with excellent command of his change up to keep the potent FSU offense off-balance all evening.
Over his last four starts Mazzoni is 2-1 with a 0.91 ERA and has eight-or-more strikeouts in each of his last five games. FSU coach Mike Martin called the outing impressive.
“It was a beautifully pitched baseball game,” said the veteran skipper. “Not only did he dominate us with the fastball, he really showed his ability to show the breaking ball for strikes. It was just a dominating performance. I’ve seen him twice and he is very impressive.”
The Pack opened the scoring with a run in the third inning but broke things open with a three run fifth. With two outs and Pratt Maynard having reached base with on a single Tarran Senay reached base on a four pitch walk. Andrew Ciencin followed with a single that scored Maynard and moved Senay to third. That left a chance for some two-out magic to Danny Canela who promptly singled to right field scoring Senay and Ciencin on error. The Pack added insurance runs in the seventh (1) and eighth (2).
While the defense and pitching struggled, the reliable Seminole offense was nowhere to be found. The Noles managed just four hits and six base runners
Mazzoni pitched out of some jams, surrendering leadoff hits in the first and second innings and worked his way out of a runners on first and third, one out hole in the seventh. The Noles had just three runners reach scoring position and were set down in order in four of the nine innings,
The loss drops FSU to 40-16, puts them in a must win situation in their next two game to have a chance to make it to Sunday’s finale and places their hopes of national seed in jeopardy.
NC State will face Georgia Tech later today at 7 PM while FSU prepares for a 3 PM meeting the very hot Clemson Tigers.
Biggest winner: After scoring just three runs in its regular season finale series against the Tar Heels, the Cavaliers scored 3 runs in the second inning in their day one contest with Wake Forest. In fact, the 13 runs the Cavaliers plated against Wake equals the 13 runs they’ve scored in the last six games.
More importantly, Virginia did what a top-seed should to in tournament; they completely dominated the lowest seed in every facet of the game. The Hoos reasserted themselves as the 100-pound gorilla at the ACC Tournament and put the rest of the nation on notice they have no intention of giving up the #1 seed in the NCAA show without a battle.
Biggest loser: There are still two more games left in the ACC Tournament for both Florida State and Georgia Tech, but neither team bolstered its case for a national seed after getting shutout by lower seeds 7-0 and 9-0 respectively. But the Yellow Jackets may have taken the biggest step back with their loss. Still sitting below the magical 40-win mark, Tech’s hopes of earning a national seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament may have gone from fading to fleeting as they barely averted becoming the days second 10-run mercy-rule loss. The Jackets are still guaranteed to host a regional after a solid season of work and strong RPI, but that is likely all they’ll get. The leagues chances of having three top-8 seeds are dwindling.