May 25, 2003


CBI Live
Tech takes title
Yellow Jackets snag three wins to complete miraculous day

By Sean Ryan Co-Founder

SALEM, Va. - During Georgia Tech’s 23-4 romp over Duke on Saturday, Brian Burks asked a simple question: Why not?

"In the Duke game, when we scored nine runs that one inning, we were just saying: Why not another run?" said Burks, a junior pitcher. "Then, it just came up with every situation. People were saying why not…it just kind of rolled."

And when the Yellow Jackets faced the specter of winning three games Sunday to have a shot at the ACC Tournament title? Why not?

"Someone just came up with it before the game, like hey, why not?" Yellow Jackets coach Danny Hall said. "We’ve got three games, why not? It stuck. It became the theme of the day."

Burks added, "That was the story of the day. Why not? We’re going to be here anyway, so why not win it?"

That’s exactly what Georgia Tech did, although it wasn’t quite that simple.

The Yellow Jackets used Eric Patterson’s two-out, two-strike single to center in the bottom of the 10th inning to nip North Carolina State 6-5 to capture the ACC Crown at Memorial Stadium. Earlier in the day, Tech (44-16) rallied from five-run deficits to beat North Carolina 10-6 and top-ranked Florida State 10-7 en route to a miraculous tournament run that won’t soon be forgotten.

Eleven hours and 20 minutes and 28 innings after the first pitch Sunday, the Yellow Jackets had beaten a team that’s been in the top-25 most of the year and two top-10 teams to win their sixth ACC Tournament title.

"I don’t think you can get any harder," said Burks, the tourney’s most valuable player. "Especially in the same day when pitching’s slim. It just doesn’t get much better than that."

Winning three games in a day isn’t unprecedented. In April, Vermont swept a tripleheader from Pace in games scheduled for seven innings of which two went eight. And on May 20, 1989, Notre Dame actually won four games in one 24-hour period, beating Dayton in a game that started just after midnight and topping Evansville and Detroit twice during normal baseball-playing hours to win the rain-soaked Midwestern Collegiate Conference tourney.

But few teams - if any - can claim they beat three of the nation’s best in one day.

"We knew individually we could beat each team, but it’s a matter of winning all three," said right fielder Jeremy Slayden, whose double in the seventh made it 5-2 Tech. "But the real trick is three back-to-back-to-back. It’s going to take a toll on your body and definitely mentally more than anything else."

Added Patterson, the Jackets’ second baseman and one of many heroes: "Of course we’re tired. We played 27-28 innings, something we’ve never done. The biggest thing you’ve gotta do in a situation like today, you just gotta take it a game at a time, a pitch at a time, an inning at a time. And that’s what we did."

The Wolfpack (42-16) certainly didn’t make it easy.

Trailing 5-2, State got one back in the eighth off Jeff Watchko (3-3) when Joe Gaetti beat Watchko to base on a squibber to Clifton Remole at first, allowing Chad Orvella to score.

In the ninth, Dustin Knight singled and Marc Maynor doubled to put the Wolfpack in business. With runners on second and third, Adam Hargrave lifted a fly ball to Slayden in right, plenty deep to score Knight. Slayden fired to Patterson, who threw wildly and past Davis Myers at third, allowing Maynor to come home with the tying run.

The bottom of the 10th brought a little controversy in addition to the excitement. Slayden walked to lead off against shortstop-turned-pitcher Orvella (2-2). Pinch-hitter Jake Hall then bunted a ball that possibly could have been in play that Wolfpack catcher Colt Morton fired to second to start an apparent double play. Home plate umpire Al Davis ruled the play dead.

"He said the guy bunted the ball twice, but I’m not allowed to comment," Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent said. "Ya’ll saw it, you make your own opinions. That’s the way it is."

State got one out back when Slayden was hit by Hall’s grounder that was destined for right field for the first out. Tyler Greene then blooped a single before Brandon Boggs took a couple of borderline balls and fought off six pitches before moving the runners to second and third with a grounder to first.

With the weary Yellow Jackets rubbing the "GT" on their caps and then shaking them at Orvella on a 2-2, two-out offering, Patterson looped a single to center, setting off a wild celebration that likely took the last ounce of energy out of the Jackets.

"You can’t get down pitch by pitch," said Patterson, who had two of Tech’s eight hits. "You’ve just got to take it one pitch at a time and just put a good swing on it. And it fell down."

Commented Avent: "It shows a lot. They’re a great ballclub. It’s a heck of a tournament…it takes a lot to go into winning this thing, and you got to take your hat off to Georgia Tech. They’ve got a great ballclub, and they deserve it."

How great?

"That’s a ballclub that certainly has a great chance of being in Omaha," Avent said.

And one that will go down in ACC history for pulling off one of the most magical days in any sport.

"Our team motto was ‘Why not?’" Slayden said. "Why not do it. You got two teams, umpires, it’s a baseball game. Anything can happen, so why not win? Why not win all three games?"