THE GAME AT A GLANCE
Turning Point: Georgia Tech led 4-0 in the eighth inning when Brad Chalk's infield single put two Clemson runners on base with no outs and chased Lee Hyde from the game. Seven of the next eight batters reached against the Georgia Tech bullpen, and Clemson ended the inning with an 8-4 lead.
The Hero: Clemson first baseman Andy D'Alessio hit a three-run home run in the midst of the eight-run eighth inning. His 23rd homer of the year turned a 4-3 deficit into a 6-4 advantage and moved him one longball behind national leader Kellen Kulbacki of James Madison.
You May Not Have Noticed: Hyde held Clemson scoreless on two hits for the first seven innings of the game. Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall chose Hyde over normal Friday starter Blake Wood because of how the lefthander matched up against Clemson. That decision looked brilliant, but got lost when a Tech bullpen that hadn't given up a run in regionals or super-regionals imploded in the eighth inning.
"This is our game," he screamed at his players in the dugout.
He was right.
Clemson erased a four-run deficit with an eight-run, eighth-inning outburst to beat Georgia Tech 8-4 in the opening game of the College World Series in front of 16,045 fans on Friday. The big blow was Andy D'Alessio's three-run homer to right-center field, which gave Clemson (53-14) a 6-4 lead it would not relinquish.
"Coach came to me in the seventh and said, 'It's going to come down to you, you need to come up with the big hit for us,' and I was able to do that," said D'Alessio, a third-team All-American whose 23 home runs on the season are tied for second-most in the nation.
It's been someone different coming up big in the late innings for Clemson almost every game lately. The Tigers have won 25 of their last 26 games, but few of them have been easy in the last couple of weeks, as Clemson has trailed at some point after the sixth inning in each of its last four games--all wins.
The Tigers came from behind twice in their super-regional against Oral Roberts, using a walk-off grand slam by Tyler Colvin in the opener and a two-run, go-ahead single in the eighth inning by Stan Widmann in the clincher. And Georgia Tech (50-17) had seen Clemson's late-innings explosiveness before. The Tigers broke open a 6-6 tie in the ninth inning of an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament game against the Yellow Jackets with a 10-spot in the ninth.
"When you win games late or you get something going late in the ballgame, two things have to happen: your team has to believe that it's going to happen, and they have to have the firepower to be able to do it," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "We've got some weapons, they were just a little quiet for a long period of time. Hyde was doing a great job pitching, and you have to give him credit--he pitched a real good ballgame."
Hyde, who got the start over Tech's usual No. 1 starter Blake Wood because he matches up better with a Clemson lineup that features four lefthanded hitters, was masterful through seven innings. He relied heavily on his fastball and darting changeup to keep Clemson batters off balance, striking out six. It was the first time all season the Tigers were shut out through six innings.
But Hyde issued a walk to Herman Demmink on his 100th pitch to lead off the eighth inning, then surrendered a seeing-eye infield hit to Brad Chalk, so Tech coach Danny Hall went to his bullpen, which had not allowed an earned run in 8 1/3 NCAA tournament innings entering the game.
Marquez Smith greeted new pitcher Brad Rulon with a two-run double, and the next three batters reached as well against lefty Ryan Turner (4-4), punctuated by D'Alessio's three-run homer on a 2-2 slider.
"Marquez' hit off the relief pitcher was awful big because it broke the ice for us, and we had a man on second base now, and it was a two run ballgame, and nobody out, and it just got our confidence going," Leggett said.
And Clemson has proven by now that all it needs is a little confidence.
"We've always had the confidence to come back, it just seems like we've had to do it a bit more lately, unfortunately," D'Alessio said. "But we just know it's possible to put up an eight-, 10-, five-spot whenever we need to."