ATLANTA - Matt Skole and Evan Martin delivered big two-RBI hits in Georgia Tech's six-run, eighth-inning outburst Tuesday night, carrying the fourth-ranked Yellow Jackets to a 6-4 victory in the ninth Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Spring Baseball Classic at Turner Field.
Tech (35-7) won for just the second time in nine meetings between the two teams at Turner Field, before a crowd of 16,194 that braved a chilly and windy night and the threat of rain, and earned their first regular-season sweep of the Bulldogs since 1994. The Yellow Jackets took a 6-5 decision at Russ Chandler Stadium and a 25-6 win in Athens earlier in the season.
"It feels great and I hope it's not another 16 years in between the next time we do it [sweeping the season series against Georgia]," said Tech head coach Danny Hall. "It's a great feeling to beat them three times and we hadn't won here at Turner Field in awhile either. So, to get a win here is great. It's hard to sweep anybody, let alone in a series against Georgia."
The Yellow Jackets were shut out on just four hits through the first seven innings, but collected six against three Georgia relievers to score all of its runs in the decisive eighth and erase a 2-0 deficit.
Pope (7-0), meanwhile, earned the victory and remained undefeated despite spotting the Bulldogs a pair of runs in the sixth. He did not allow a hit through the first five innings, the deepest he'd ever pitched into a game without surrendering a safety, then gave up seven hits in the sixth and seventh. He finished the game with one walk and nine strikeouts in seven innings of work.
Andrew Robinson came on in the eighth and got the final four outs, recording his fourth save of the season.
Tech's big inning started with a one-out double from Jeff Rowland, which was followed by a Derek Dietrich single and a sacrifice fly from Tony Plagman off UGA reliever Justin Earls to slice Georgia's lead to 2-1. After Cole Leonida greeted the Bulldogs' Jeff Walters with a single, Skole hammered a pitch into the right field corner for a triple to score two runs and put the Jackets ahead, 3-2.
"I got up there and I was a little nervous in the first couple of at-bats," said Skole. "I kind of got loose [in the batters box] as the game went on and took some better swings and started putting the ball in play. It worked itself out. We've worked a lot on our approach with two strikes and two outs this year and those big hits won us the game."
Chase Burnette followed with a double to score Skole, and after a pair of walks, Evan Martin doubled into the right field corner to score two more and boost the Jackets' lead to 6-2.
Walters (1-5), the fourth of five Georgia pitchers, was tagged with the loss after failing to retire any of the six batters he faced. He gave up four runs on four hits and two walks.
Georgia fought back with a pair of runs off Tech's bullpen in the eighth. Kyle Farmer singled and pinch-hitter Kevin Ruiz walked, scoring on Brett DeLoach's two-out, pinch-hit double to make it 6-4. Robinson then got out of the jam by getting Todd Hawkins to line out to right field.
Pope and Georgia starter Blake Dieterich traded zeroes through the first five innings, with neither team posing a major threat to score. Tech stranded runners at third base with two out in the first and fifth innings. Georgia put runners on second and third with an error, a walk and a wild pitch in the fifth, but Pope got two strikeouts to end that threat.
Dieterich left after five innings, a career long outing for the freshman from Winter Garden, Fla., who came into the game with a 14.77 ERA in 13 appearances. He gave up just the one hit and two walks while striking out two, but did not figure into the decision.
After getting no hits against Pope through the first five innings, the Bulldogs struck first with two runs in the sixth on five hits, four of which never left the infield. Todd Hawkins, the No. 9 hitter, led off with a bunt single and moved to second on Johnathan Taylor's single to left field. Peter Verdin bunted down the third base line, but reached first when Pope fielded his bunt and found no one covering third to complete a force-out.
Levi Hyams followed with a ground ball to second baseman Jacob Esch that turned into an RBI hit when Plagman left first base uncovered trying to field the ball. After Zach Cone fouled out and Kyle Farmer fanned, Robert Shipman's ground ball up the middle deflected off Pope for another infield hit, scoring Taylor to make it 2-0. But the sophomore prevented further damage by fanning Chase Davidson.
"It's part of the game, sometimes it just happens," said Pope. "You just try to minimize the damage as much as you can and I was just happy to only come out with two runs that inning [the sixth]."