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May 26, 2012
GREENSBORO, N.C. - The last team to punch its ticket to the 2012 ACC Championship, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets could be the last team standing following Saturday's 5-1 win over Clemson (33-26). The win keeps Tech (35-24) undefeated in the tournament and assures them of a spot in Sunday's title game against either Miami or NC State.
Tech's jack-of-all-trades Jake Davies (1-3) won his first game as a pitcher in over two seasons while jump-starting the Yellow Jacket offense with a two-run home run in the first inning.
Tech's regular first baseman and the ACC leader with 67 RBIs, Davies was forced into the starting rotation earlier this season when a rash of injuries hit the Tech staff. Davies has made only four career starts after 54 straight relief appearances.
Georgia Tech rocked Clemson starter Kevin Pohle (6-4) in the first. Leadoff hitter Kyle Wren singled and scored on Davies' home run, his fourth of the tournament and 13th of the season.
Steve Wilkerson answered in the bottom of the inning, blasting his first career home run. But Tech third baseman Sam Dove helped Davies with three superb fielding plays, including a diving stop in the hole that robbed Phil Pohl of a two-out hit.
Davies said his adrenaline was flowing after his first inning home run and credits Dove's defense with helping him settle down. "That set the tone for our defense."
Both coaches cited the importance of the game's opening stanza.
"They jumped on us early," Clemson's Jack Leggett said. "We got down and just couldn't get anything together offensively."
Tech's Danny Hall agreed. "We got timely hits early, played good defense and got good pitching. That's a pretty good recipe."
Back-to-back doubles in the second by Daniel Spignola and Thomas Smith extended Tech's lead to 3-1.
Brandon Thomas led off the Tech third with a double, prompting Clemson to replace Pohle with Scott Firth.
Firth retired Davies on a deep fly ball, but Daniel Palka reached first on a run-scoring error and Shane Evans drove in Palka with Tech's fourth double of the game. At this point, Georgia Tech had scored 22 runs in their last eight innings.
Trailing 5-1, Clemson threatened in its half of the third. Davies retired eight consecutive hitters before Wilkerson reached on an error. Thomas Brittle beat out a roller to second, bringing up Richie Shaffer with two on and two outs. Davies retired the dangerous Shaffer on a routine fly ball.
Davies lasted six innings, allowing only two hits and a single run while striking out three and walking one. The senior said he was hoping to go five innings and his goal was to get ahead in the count, locate his breaking ball and keep his pitch count down.
Shaffer said Davies met that goal. "He kept us off balance. He threw strikes and challenged us and we didn't put a lot of good swings together."
Davies was replaced on the mound by Alex Cruz but remained in the game as the designated hitter. Cruz retired the first two batters he faced but Clemson loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a walk. Wilkerson grounded out to first base, ending their last serious threat.
Cruz finished the game, earning his second save of the season and of the tournament.
Firth had a masterful effort in relief for the Tigers, allowing only one unearned run in 6.1 innings.
Evans had his second-straight three-hit game for the victors. He is 6-for-12 for the tournament, while Davies is 5-for-11 with eight RBIs.
The fifth-seeded Tigers go home to await their NCAA Tournament fate, while Georgia Tech attempts to become the first eight seed to win the ACC Tournament.
Hall says Josh Heddinger (3-4) will make tomorrow's start. The championship is set for 12 p.m. and will be televised nationally on ESPN2.