THE GAME AT A GLANCE
Turning Point: Cal State Fullerton was one out away from elimination with the bases empty in the ninth inning, when shortstop Blake Davis started a three-run rally with a single to left field that seemed pretty innocuous at the time. But the next four batters reached against flamethrowing Georgia Tech closer Matt Wieters, and the Titans pulled out the improbable comeback. It started with Davis' single.
The Hero: Two days after he cost the Titans a crucial 11th-inning scoring opportunity by being picked off third base, Cory Vanderhook delivered the go-ahead single as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning. His chopper to second with the bases loaded took a bizarre hop to the right to elude Tech shortstop Michael Fisher.
You May Not Have Noticed: Cal State Fullerton's comeback would have been even more difficult if Georgia Tech had been able to add an insurance run in the eighth inning. But with Mike Trapani on third base and just one out, the Titans called upon closer Ryan Paul, who got the next two batters to ground out, stranding the runner at third.
Protecting a one-run lead with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, Wieters got two strikes on Cory Vanderhook before the pinch-hitter chopped a single off home plate. It bounced over Wieters' head and landed softly behind the mound. It bounced twice, then the spin on the ball carried it away from charging shortstop Michael Fisher. Two Cal State Fullerton runners scored, and the Titans tacked on one more run before escaping with a stunning 7-5 victory.
"Not that I thought it was over, but it was two outs in the ninth and Wieters is a tremendous pitcher. I was reflecting on what I was going to say to the team," Fullerton coach George Horton said.
"They just never stopped battling. That's our moniker and our motto. That's the definition of how we play frequently, just grind it out and never give up. I think sometimes hard working teams make their own luck."
A crowd of 18,974 left Rosenblatt Stadium in disbelief Sunday afternoon, and so did Georgia Tech, which was eliminated from the College World Series after getting within one strike of advancing to play the winner of tonight's Clemson-North Carolina game in the winner's bracket.
"I've never seen anything like that," Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall said. "The guy didn't hit the ball at all and it chops over the mound and takes a right turn. I've never seen anything like that. And they got two runs on it."
Fullerton (49-14) began the rally with a single to left field by Blake Davis. Brett Pill followed with a double to right-center, and third-base coach Rick Vanderhook made a tough call to hold Davis at third. Georgia Tech walked cleanup hitter Danny Dorn to load the bases for Joe Turgeon, who was batting in the DH slot after pinch-running for Jared Clark in the eighth inning.
That set the stage for Vanderhook, the third-base coach's nephew. His game-winning squibber provided redemption after the senior catcher was picked off third base with one out in the 11th inning in Friday's 13-inning loss to North Carolina.
"I didn't really have time to think about it," Vanderhook said. "I didn't realize the situation could come up that I could pinch-hit. Before I knew it I had a chance to bail myself and my team out and I came through."
Georgia Tech (50-18) led 4-0 before
Fullerton rallied to tie the score in the sixth. Wieters' home run to
left-center field in the seventh inning put Georgia Tech ahead 5-4,
and it looked like he'd become the hero.
He drove an outside fastball the opposite way for a home run, though leaping Fullerton left fielder Danny Dorn might have brought the ball back into a park had a fan not reached over Dorn's glove and deflected the ball into the stands.
Georgia Tech's bullpen, which allowed six runs as it blew a 4-0 lead in a loss to Clemson on Friday, looked like it would hold this lead. Tim Ladd and Brad Rulon combined for two scoreless innings, and Wieters closed the eighth inning and retired the first two batters in the ninth before Fullerton's rally.
"I started thinking, 'Shoot, we might be done,' " said Fullerton starter Dustin Miller, a fifth-year senior who allowed five runs--four earned--over six innings.
"I said, 'Never count the Titans out, we've got an out to go.' Then we got a knock here and a knock there and then Cory got that hit. It was exciting, it was unbelievable. I'm still shaking right now thinking about what happened."
The Yellow Jackets entered the CWS with a 45-0 record when leading after seven innings and leave with consecutive losses in two such situations.
"Probably the two toughest losses that I have been a part of," Hall said. "To lead for most of the game and not be able to close them out makes it real hard."
* Wieters became the first player to serve as both a pitcher and catcher in a College World Series game since 1990, when Gettys Glaze did so for The Citadel. Glaze's appearance also came against Cal State Fullerton.