GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Jake Davies brought Greensboro south.
Five days after completing his pummeling of ACC pitching in the conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C., the Georgia Tech first baseman resumed his smiting in the Yellow Jackets’ opening NCAA regional game. Davies crushed a three-run home run Friday, igniting the Jackets to an 8-4 win over College of Charleston at Florida’s McKethan Stadium.
Tech (37-24) moves to a winner’s bracket game at 7 p.m. Saturday against Florida.
Gators pitcher Jonathan Crawford threw a no-hitter against Bethune-Cookman on Friday night, a 4-0 victory in which he walked one but faced the minimum 27 batters because of a caught stealing.
It was the first no-hitter in NCAA tournament play since 1991, when Florida’s John Burke no-hit Furman.
Second baseman Casey Turgeon made the final putout, a leaping grab of a line drive by Carlos Delgado. Turgeon also produced all of Florida’s offense. He drove in all four runs, including a three-run home run in the fifth inning.
Davies said he’s not intimidated by Florida, which is the tournament’s overall top seed, reached the College World Series championship game last year and boasts a slew of likely selections in next week’s major league draft.
“You always want to play the best,” Davies said. “If you’re going to win a national championship, you’ve got to beat the best. Why not start in regionals?”
The win ensures that Tech’s stay at the four-team, double-elimination regional will last at least until Sunday. College of Charleston (37-21) plays Bethune-Cookman at 1 p.m. Saturday. That game’s loser is eliminated, and the winner plays at 1 p.m. Sunday against the loser of Saturday night’s game.
Davies made sure the Jackets’ stay in Gainesville began in proper form. After Tech fell behind 1-0 in the first half-inning, Davies launched a first-pitch fastball from Christian Powell deep over the right-field fence.
Tech’s scouting report indicated that Powell, ranked No. 195 among draft prospects by Baseball America magazine, favors his fastball. As Powell delivered, Davies lay in wait for a fastball on the inside half of the plate.
“He threw it right where I wanted it,” Davies said. “I just put the barrel on it.”
After the Cougars rallied in the top of the second to tie the score at 3-3, Tech came back with four more runs in the bottom of the inning as left fielder Brandon Thomas hit his own three-run home run, also on the first pitch.
The Jackets led 7-3 after two innings and never let the Cougars threaten after that, thanks to 5 1/3 innings of scoreless relief from Dusty Isaacs.
In five postseason games dating to Tech’s four-game run to the ACC title in Greensboro, Davies is 9-for-20 with five home runs and 15 RBIs. Tech is hitting .329 with nine home runs over the same span.
Said Tech coach Danny Hall of Davies, “He’s not missing any pitches.”
Davies also turned in one of the defensive plays of the game, backhanding a foul pop on the run at the railing of the College of Charleston dugout in the second inning.
The early leads gave Tech a degree of comfort in a setting where the Jackets have not thrived in recent years. Since reaching the College World Series in 2006 and then missing the tournament in 2007, the Jackets’ season has ended at the regional level each of the past four seasons despite being at home and the top seed the past three years.
“We came in here a confident team, and putting those runs up definitely took a little pressure off, helped us play a little loose,” said third baseman Sam Dove, who went 2-for-4 with three runs. “I think we started a little dead, and it definitely woke us a bit.”
Isaacs entered the game with two outs in the fourth to relieve starter Cole Pitts. In a struggle from the first batter, Pitts gave up 10 hits and four runs (three earned), preventing further damage by stranding five in the first three innings. Isaacs closed the door in the fourth with a strikeout and zipped up College of Charleston the rest of the way.
Consistently throwing his off-speed pitches for strikes, Isaacs kept the Cougars off balance and enabled Hall to preserve the rest of the bullpen for the remainder of the weekend. Of the four batters to reach base, only one advanced past first base.
“Dusty Isaacs really settled the game,” Hall said.