May 25, 2003


CBI Live
Two down, one to go
Yellow Jackets stun Seminoles, meet Wolfpack next

By Sean Ryan Co-Founder

SALEM, Va. – The odds seemed unthinkable.


Georgia Tech trailed Florida State 7-4 heading into the top of the ninth. And standing in between the Yellow Jackets and a third game on Sunday was Daniel Hodges, the Seminoles’ all-world closer who came in at 5-0 with a 0.75 ERA with five runs (four earned) in 48 innings.


The Jackets might think of heading to Vegas when the ACC Tournament is complete.


Mike Nickeas ripped a two-run double after a crucial Stephen Drew error as Tech batted around and scored six runs (five unearned) in the inning to steal a 10-7 win from the Seminoles in an elimination game at Memorial Stadium. The Yellow Jackets (43-16) moved a win over North Carolina State away from winning three games in one day and the ACC Tournament. The Seminoles (50-10-1) will be a host for an NCAA Regional this week and are a virtual lock to be one of the top eight seeds that will be announced Monday.


“I heard the guy had an amazing year, and obviously he did,” said Nickeas, who went 3 for 5 with two RBI. “He was first-team all-ACC and what not. Real low ERA. And we came in and we just tried staying back on him.”


Added winning pitcher Brian Burks (5-1): “With our team, that’s the way we want it. We want the best guy in there. We want to compete against the best guy. We happened to beat the best guy today.”


And the Yellow Jackets took advantage of a monumental break.


Tyler Greene and Eric Patterson sandwiched a strikeout with opposite-field singles before Steven Blackwood walked.


Then, it happened.


With one out, Matt Murton bounced a tailor-made double-play ball up the middle. Drew ranged to his left and fielded the ball with ease a step or two from second base. Rather than touch the bag and try to complete the double play himself, Drew flipped to Bryan Zech, less than 2 feet away. The ball appeared to bounce off Zech’s chest and glove as the Yellow Jackets crept to 7-5.


Instead of FSU celebrating its fourth tournament title, Tech had life.


“It was the wrong decision,” Drew said. “When I go back and think about it, I should have taken it myself.”


Said Seminoles coach Mike Martin: “I don’t even need to talk to the best shortstop I’ve ever coached here and probably the best shortstop in college baseball. I don’t go up to him and say blah, blah, blah. The guy’s a winner. It’s over with. It’s history.”


Added Nickeas: “Obviously, a huge break for us. Unfortunately it had to be that way. I would have liked a single up the middle for Matt rather than an error on Stephen. That’s part of baseball.”


With the bases still loaded and one out, cleanup-hitter Clifton Remole bounced out to deep first, with Hodges (5-1) hustling over to barely beat Remole to the bag as Patterson scored to make it 7-6.


Nickeas then ripped a curveball off the chalk of the left-field line to score Blackwood and Murton.


“I just went up there thinking curveball,” Nickeas said. “And he kind of hung one the first pitch. It broke back into my bat. I’m just glad it stayed fair. I think it hit the chalk.


“His off-speed is his bread and butter, no doubt. He may sneak a fastball by you, but your approach almost has to switch. Normally, you’re thinking fastball and reacting to curveball. This guy, maybe you’re going up there thinking curveball and reacting to fastball.”


Jeremy Slayden continued the flurry by tripling for another run, and Micah Owings singled to give the Yellow Jackets a 10-7 lead.


Burks got three outs in the ninth to put Georgia Tech in position to win its sixth tournament title.


“To those guys, you tell them that you love them and how humbling this game can be,” Martin said. “What happened, no one ever thought it could happen. But it proves how unpredictable this game is…it was a game in which you thought you had control at 7-2, and yet, you didn’t.”


Tony Richie gave the Seminoles a 1-0 lead in the first with a groundout. FSU added three more on Chris Hart’s RBI single, Kevin Richmond’s RBI groundout and an error on Patterson at second.


Tech scratched for two on a Greene double and an RBI groundout by Patterson. Richmond had another RBI groundout before Drew’s two-run laser made it 7-2 Seminoles.


But, for the second time Sunday, the Yellow Jackets rallied from a five-run deficit to win.


“It will be unprecedented if they win three games in one day,” Martin said. “I don’t know if anybody’s ever done that in college baseball.”