GREENSBORO, N.C.—Day Three at the ACC tournament featured a pair of walk-off home runs, but Clemson's victory over Florida State was considerably more compelling than Georgia Tech's walk-off win against Virginia.
When Jake Davies launched his wind-aded three-run homer over the right-center-field wall in the day's first game, it gave the Yellow Jackets a mercy-rule-shortened 17-5 win, improving Tech to 2-0 in pool play.
"That's what you call a good old-fashioned butt-kicking," Virginia coach Brian O'Connor said.
Clemson's walk-off win was more conventional, and more dramatic.
The Tigers clawed their way back from deficits for most of the game but couldn't quite catch up with Florida State until the ninth. The Seminoles took control with four runs in the third inning, then led 5-2 after tacking on another run in the fifth. Clemson answered with two in the bottom of the frame to get within a run—and FSU again extended its lead to three runs with two in the eighth. Again, Clemson responded, scoring two in the bottom of the inning to get back within a run.
Florida State closer Robert Benincasa took the mound to close it out in the ninth, but after a pair of singles, Jon McGibbon delivered a game-winning homer to right-center on a Benincasa breaking ball that hung up a little too long. The Tigers mobbed McGibbon at the plate, celebrating a 9-7 win.
"The scouting report is he likes his slider," McGibbon said of Benincasa. "The first pitch was a little in, but he came back with it again, second pitch—it was right down the middle."
This ACC tournament field is filled with scrappy teams that battle until the final out. This isn't a vintage, powerhouse Clemson team, but the Tigers have made coach Jack Leggett proud because of the way they respond to adversity.
"I think our kids really battled hard today," Leggett said. "That was a grind from the very beginning. Every time we seemed to get closer, Florida State would grab one. Our relief pitching was good, I thought. Our kids played hard today, and I'm really proud of how they battled, because they could have caved in at several points in the ball game. It was a team effort, and we did a lot of good things along the way."
The game was essentially meaningless for the Seminoles, who knew they couldn't reach the title game after Georgia Tech won earlier in the day, and who are already locked into a national seed. But Florida State still turned in a strong effort and made every attempt to win the game, getting a solid start from ace Brandon Leibrandt (6.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 ER) and entrusting the end of the game to the usually rock-solid Benincasa.
"I guess Benincasa proved he is human," FSU coach Mike Martin said. "Because that young man has pitched almost flawlessly for us all year long.
"(The FSU players are) very disappointed. I was so impressed with our team, the way we played today, in a so-called meaningless game . . . The fact that we knew we had no chance to win it, to see our guys go out there and play with that kind of fire and emotion makes me feel proud. I feel bad for them right now, but I assure you that somewhere the sun will rise tomorrow, and God willing, we will play again."
Clemson improved to 3-1 against Florida State this year and kept its chances of reaching the ACC title game alive. If the Tigers beat Georgia Tech on Saturday, and FSU beats Virginia, Clemson would win the bracket. If Clemson and Virginia win, the Cavs would advance. But if Georgia Tech wins, regardless of the outcome of the other game, it would head to Sunday's championship game.
And the way the Yellow Jackets are swinging the bats right now, they look like a very real threat to win the tournament. Tech is the only team in the field that really needs that automatic bid to assure it a spot in regionals, but wins against FSU and UVa. have gone a long way toward strengthening its resume after a 12-18 conference season.
"Obviously we went to the last day of the year not even knowing if we'd make this tournament," Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall said. "I honestly think that has helped us because we've had to grind pretty hard, at least mid-point through the ACC season and all the way through. We got off to a rough start, so we knew we had to get going to just stay alive in the ACC."
Like Davies, Zane Evans (3-for-4, HR, 6 RBI) and Brandon Thomas (2-for-3, 4 R, 3 RBI) had big days in the middle of a potent Georgia Tech lineup that is beginning to show why the Jackets were ranked No. 12 in the preseason.
"I guess no one really thought we would do anything, but we came up here with a lot of enthusiasm and ready to play," Evans said.
"I thought we had a good team, even though the wins weren't always there," Thomas added. "When we put it all together, we're pretty dangerous."
Comments will be monitored prior to being added to the site. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be rejected. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed.
We have chosen to open up commenting to everyone, so comment away! We want to hear from each and every one of you! Leave a comment.
About This Blog
Syndicate This Blog
Search This Blog