Tech overpowers Mercer in Atlanta regional

Four more home runs and one more win for Georgia Tech's baseball team.

Tony Plagman hit two homers as part of a 5-for-5 night, Jay Dantzler and Jacob Esch added two more and Mark Pope pitched his first complete game to lead Georgia Tech to a 10-0 victory over Mercer on Friday in the NCAA regional at Russ Chandler Stadium.

"It's a great way to start regionals," Plagman said. "You can't ask for anything better."

Georgia Tech will face Alabama, 11-2 winners over Elon in Friday's first game, at 7 p.m. Saturday in the winner's bracket of the double-elimination format. Normally, one would expect a pitcher's duel with two No. 1 starters facing off: Tide right-hander Jimmy Nelson (8-2, 3.69 ERA) against Jackets right-hander Deck McGuire (8-4, 3.01 ERA). McGuire is a projected top-10 pick in Monday's draft.

But after Friday, when Alabama laced 17 hits and Tech added 16 more, the only thing that can be counted on is that the winner can close out the regional with another victory at 7 p.m. Sunday. Should Tech do so, it will host a super regional next week. It would be its first super regional since 2006, when it advanced to the College World Series.

The Jackets (46-13) put Mercer (37-23) in the loser's bracket with the weapon they've used on so many teams this season: the long ball. Tech is two homers away from breaking the school record of 119 set in 1987. Seven Jackets have hit at least 10 home runs.

Combined with Pope's pitching, it was too much for the Bears.

"I was running on straight adrenaline in that last inning," said Pope, who struck out 10 and needed just 110 pitches. Hall said while he knew Pope could get the shutout, he never dreamed that he would go the distance.

Mercer coach Craig Gibson elected to juggle his rotation and shift the left-handed Brandon Love up a day to negate Tech's power from the left side. But the move didn't work. Led by Plagman, Tech touched Love for five earned runs in 3 1/3 innings to improve to 60-51 in NCAA tournament games.

Despite the ease with which they beat the Bears, who were making their first NCAA tournament appearance, the Jackets know not to be too confident. They defeated Georgia State in last year's regional opener but were eventually eliminated by Southern Miss. And they will be taking on a streaking opponent in the Crimson Tide. After losing five of six during a stretch in May, Alabama's bats have gotten hot, and the team has won nine of its past 10 games.

"This is a better offense that has shown up for most of the year, and I think right now you're starting to get some guys dialed in with guys who really have had good years throughout," Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said.

Plagman gave Tech a 1-0 lead in the first with a home run to right on a hanging curve and added a two-run shot in the third on another curve. He needs three more to reach 59 and break Jason Varitek's career record set in 1994.

Atlanta Regional

Where: Russ Chandler Stadium


Saturday's schedule

3 p.m.: Elon (38-23) vs. Mercer (37-23); the loser is eliminated

7 p.m.: Georgia Tech (46-13) vs. Alabama (38-22)

Sunday's schedule

3 p.m.: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 loser; the loser is eliminated

7 p.m.: Game 2 winner vs. Sunday Game 1 winner