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May 28, 2010
By Bill Hass
GREENSBORO, N.C. - Andrew Rash wasn't going to let a little thing like a cramp in his right calf keep him from heading to the plate.
Rash scored the go-ahead run in a close play at home in the bottom of the eighth inning as Virginia Tech nipped Clemson 9-8 Friday in the ACC Baseball Championship.
"This whole experience this week has been awesome," said fifth-year senior Sean Ryan, who singled in the go-ahead run. "To come out and win two ball games, it's been a blast and we're all having fun and hopefully we can go out (Saturday) and play the same way."
Virginia Tech, in its sixth year in the ACC, had a lifetime 0-1 record in ACC postseason play. Under the current round-robin format, now in its fourth year, this is the first time the Hokies finished among the top eight teams to qualify for the championship event.
After knocking off Georgia Tech 6-2 Thursday, the Hokies put five runs on the board in the first inning against Clemson, then held off the Tigers the rest of the way.
"There's nothing like winning," said coach Pete Hughes. "I don't know if there's a designed way to do it but I look at the result. What you had was two teams who are determined to win and never lose focus. It was a battle of what team was going to keep composure and get momentum in the end."
After Clemson fought back to tie the game 8-8 in the top of the eighth inning, the Hokies went to work in the bottom half. Rash doubled down the left field line against Kevin Kyle, who was replaced by Alex Frederick.
Tony Balisteri struck out for the second out, but leadoff hitter Ryan delivered a single.
"I got a slider up in the zone and I got a base-knock up the middle and Andrew scored," Ryan said.
Not that it was easy.
Clemson center fielder Addison Johnson came up with the ball quickly and fired home to catcher John Nester. Rash felt his calf tighten almost immediately leaving second base but kept charging. The throw was up the third-base line, where Nester was poised to block the plate. But Rash got around him and tagged the plate.
"It was kind of a jump and kind of like running around him," Rash said. "I knew I was going to have to get around the outside of him, toward the dugout, because if not he was going to swipe tag and get me. I couldn't go right at him because he was up the line, and in college you can't run over the catcher.
"So I just tried to get as far around him as I could, knowing that I could still touch home plate. I think I got the middle of the plate with my right hand coming back around because I ended up scraping my elbow."
As for the decision to keep running, it was easy.
"There wasn't any stopping;" he said. "I wasn't going to stop - bottom of the eighth inning, tie ball game, ball up the middle, I was going to do my best to get home."
When Rash went out to left field in the top of the ninth inning, he fell on the ground with the cramp and had to come out of the game. He said he wanted to play through it but was afraid he wouldn't be able to make a play in the field and might hurt his team's chances to win.
Rash, a redshirt freshman who missed the 2009 season with a fractured vertebrae, wasn't inserted in the starting lineup until late this season. In the sixth inning he belted his fifth home run, a long shot to left field.
"Early in the season I was real worried about striking out, not being able to hit somebody in with two outs," Rash said. "And now I go to the box knowing I'm going to get this run in and if I don't get him in, the guy behind me is going to get him in. I'm not as worried about failing like I was early in the season."
Buddy Sosnoskie hit a three-run homer for the Hokies in their five-run first inning and Austin Wates had three hits, an RBI and scored twice.
The Hokies, who got a complete game from Justin Wright Thursday, had a fresh bullpen that pitched well in relief of Matthew Price. Submariner Ben Rowen followed Sean McDermott and Joe Maniply and got the win.
Clemson got home runs from Jeff Schaus and Brad Miller, plus two hits and two RBIs from Richie Shaffer. But the Tigers' pitching, which has given up 22 runs in 18 innings in Greensboro, failed them again.
"(Wednesday) we didn't pitch very well in relief and our starting pitching today was not very good," said coach Jack Leggett. "We've got to try to find some answers."
Although they're 0-2 and out of championship contention, the Tigers (37-21) said they have a lot to play for Saturday against Georgia Tech at 4 p.m.
"Last year we were in a similar situation facing North Carolina," Miller said, "our backs against the wall 0-2. I think we won in 10 or 11 innings. That ended up carrying over into the (NCAA) tournament and we made a run. We've got to come out and battle. We've got to finish strong."
2010 Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball Championship
NewBridge Bank Park -- Greensboro, N.C.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Game 8: #2 Clemson vs. #6 Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech (38-19, 16-14 ACC) ... ...improves to 38-19 overall and 2-1 all-time in the championship. ...has won more games in the 2010 championship than it previously played in prior to entering the league prior to the 2005 season. ...4-5-6 hitters went 6-for-10 with three runs batted in and four runs scored. ...has 19 hits over its two games in the championship. ...used 16 players, including four pitchers. ...is 4-0 in one-run games this season, including a 3-0 slate against ACC opponents. ...junior rightfielder Austin Wates is 4-for-7 with three RBI and four runs in two championship games. ...senior righthander Ben Rowen tied the school record for career appearances.
Clemson (37-21, 18-12 ACC) ... ...falls to 37-21 overall and 99-59 in the ACC championship. ...is one win shy of its 100th all-time win in the ACC championship, most among league teams. ...is eliminated from championship game contention. ...has scored eight runs in each of two games in the championship and has not won either game. ...has lost two straight games after winning its previous four contests. ...has not lost two straight games since dropping a pair of contests on April 25 and May 1. ...is 6-8 in one-run games. ...used 16 players, including four pitchers. ...junior leftfielder Jeff Schaus is 5-for-9 in the championship with four RBI and three runs.