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May 24, 2013
DURHAM, N.C. - Virginia Tech struck late to edge Georgia Tech 3-2 Friday at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and become the first team to qualify for the title game of the 2013 ACC Championship.
The Hokies (38-19) entered the 2013 event seeded sixth, but upset No. 3 seed Virginia, No. 2 seed Florida State and beat No. 7 seed Georgia Tech to finish pool play 3-0 and clinch a spot Sunday at 1 p.m. against the winner of Saturday night's North Carolina-NC State game.
"We came here to win a championship," Virginia Tech coach Pete Hughes said. "I thought we were in a bear of a pool and these guys go 3-0. NC State and North Carolina are great teams, but you tell me a hotter team in the country."
The red-hot Hokies had to play catch-up most of the day against the defending ACC champs. Georgia Tech twice took one-run leads and Virginia Tech twice bounced back quickly to tie the game.
Finally, in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Hokies grabbed the lead.
Center fielder Kyle Wernicki started the game-winning rally with a solid single up the middle. He was sacrificed to second and moved to third on a sharp single by first baseman Sean Keselica to center. With one out and runners at the corners, Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall brought in reliever Alex Cruz to face shortstop Chad Pinder, who had earlier blasted his third home run of the tournament.
On this occasion, Pinder didn't knock it out of the park, but his long blow to center was deep enough to score Wernicki with what proved to be the winning run.
"I was looking for a pitch I could elevate," Pinder said. "His first two pitches were two-seam fastballs that would have been double plays. I was able to lay off and he left a slider up and I was able to put a good swing on it."
Virginia Tech starter Devin Burke (W, 10-3) was able to go seven and two thirds innings, limiting the Jackets to two runs on seven hits. Reliever Clark Labitan, who picked up the win Thursday night against Florida State after blowing the save, was perfect this time in relief - retiring the last four Georgia Tech batters in order.
"I wanted to go down with a little passion," he said of his game-ending strikeout of second baseman Thomas Smith.
Georgia Tech's Hall suggested that the windy conditions may have had a major impact on the game.
"The elements were definitely a factor," he said. My substitute catcher [Mitch Earnest] hit a couple that on any other day - one would have been a home run and the other would have been off the wall with the bases loaded."
But Virginia Tech left fielder Tyler Horan was able to catch both of Earnest's blows. As a result, Georgia Tech (34-25), which beat Miami in last year's ACC title game, finishes this year's tournament with a 1-2 record and will head back to Atlanta to await a certain bid from the NCAA Tournament.