ATLANTA, Ga. – Georgia Tech junior right-hander Deck McGuire pitched eight strong innings and sophomore second baseman Jacob Esch delivered a two-out single in the bottom of the sixth inning as the eighth-ranked Yellow Jackets defeated No. 29 Alabama 5-2 in front a sellout crowd of 4,157 at the 2010 NCAA Atlanta Regional at Russ Chandler Stadium on Saturday night.
Alabama (38-23) falls into the loser's bracket and will face Mercer on Sunday, June 6, at 2:06 p.m. (CDT) in an elimination game. Mercer (38-23) eliminated Elon 13-7 earlier in the day on Saturday.
Georgia Tech (47-13) advances to the championship game at 6 p.m. (CDT) on Sunday and would need only one win to move on to next week's NCAA Super Regionals. The Alabama-Mercer winner would need a win Sunday night and again Monday, June 7, at 6 p.m. (CDT) to advance.
McGuire and Alabama junior right-hander Jimmy Nelson lived up the pregame billing on the mound. The Yellow Jackets held a narrow 3-2 after 5 ½ innings before a bizarre bottom of the sixth inning gave the home team some cushion.
"I thought, for starters, it was a heck of a ballgame on both sides," Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "I thought that the pitching matchup was as advertised. I thought both guys were outstanding. McGuire did a really nice job all night with us. I thought Jimmy was really good. I thought he competed really hard all night."
Georgia Tech catcher Chris Leonida opened the inning with a single to left and right fielder Chase Burnette followed with a single to right field. Both runners advanced when UA right fielder Andrew Miller misplayed Burnette's single. Thomas Nichols followed with a shot off the wall in right field, but both runners held on the play and Leonida was eventually thrown out at home on a throw from Miller to junior shortstop Josh Rutledge to junior catcher Brock Bennett for the first out.
Left fielder Jay Dantzler hit a hard ground ball to senior third baseman Jake Smith for the second out, with Burnette and Nichols remaining at second and third with two outs. Esch then delivered the big blow with a two-run single to center that gave the Yellow Jackets a 5-2 lead.
"The key to the game—[Jacob Esch] got a big two-out hit after Jake [Smith] makes the great play and had the kind of crazy play off the wall there, and [it] kind of gave them some momentum on the back end. But, I thought our relievers came in and gave us a chance there at the end. But overall, it was just a pretty well-played game."
Nelson (8-3) left the game after the two-run single and was charged with five runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings. He added five strikeouts and two walks and suffered his first loss since May 8 against Florida.
However, the sixth inning seemed to give McGuire new life as he retired eight straight batters into the eighth inning en route to his ninth win of the year. McGuire (9-4) worked eight innings and allowed two runs on eight hits with six strikeouts and two walks.
Senior right-hander Andrew Robinson worked a scoreless ninth for his eighth save of the season.
Georgia Tech grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning when Burnette hit a tape-measure home run to right field. It was his 16th home run of the season the 119th of the year by the Yellow Jackets to tie the single-season school record.
Georgia Tech scored a run on three hits in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 2-0 lead. Nichols drew a two-out walk and moved to third on Dantzler's single to center. Esch, who had two hits and three RBI in the win, followed with a two-out single to put the Yellow Jackets in front 2-0.
Alabama answered with two run in the top of the fifth inning, when Rutledge hit a two-out, game-tying home run to right field to even the score at 2-2. Rutledge had three hits and two RBI in the game against Georgia Tech and is 7-for-10 in the tournament with two home runs and six RBI.
"Obviously, Josh kind of kept us in there with a really good offensive night, and I thought we had a couple of chances that we didn't take advantage of, but I think a lot of that credit goes to McGuire. He was really good tonight."
Freshman DH Brett Booth led off the fifth with a single to right field. Booth was 3-for-4 in the game against Georgia Tech and is 4-for-5 in the tournament, including three hits in his first three at-bats. With two outs, Rutledge hit an opposite-field blast that tied the game at 2-2.