KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — After getting dropped into the losers bracket in the opening game of the weekend, Georgia Tech has fought back for a spot in the championship game of its NCAA regional.
With career-defining performances by second baseman Chandler Simpson and relief pitcher Josiah Siegel, the Yellow Jackets swamped Campbell 16-5 to eliminate the Camels on Sunday afternoon and set up a matchup with overall No. 1 seed Tennessee on Sunday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Tech finished its afternoon game just before 5:30 p.m.
Tech (36-23) needs to defeat the Volunteers, the favorite to win the College World Series, Sunday night and again Monday at 1 p.m. to win the region title. In the double-elimination regional, a loss for the Jackets Sunday (or Monday) would be their second in the regional and end their season. Campbell, which defeated Tech 15-8 on Friday to drop the Jackets into the losers bracket, finished its season at 41-19. Tech had beaten Alabama State 13-4 on Saturday afternoon in its first elimination game.
Tech is seeking its first super-regional berth since 2006 and would be facing the Volunteers in what figured to be a sellout crowd, nearly all in support of Tennessee. The Jackets were to start hard-throwing reliever Zach Maxwell, the Jackets’ top arm available.
Simpson went 5-for-6 with four runs scored, two RBI and two stolen bases, a batting performance that raised his average for the season to .440, the highest in Division I. His final at-bat also was his 200th of the season, which qualified him for consideration for the single-season school record (200 at-bat category) and put him ahead of Tech great Jay Payton’s .434, recorded in 1994.
Campbell, which held No. 3 starter Aaron Rund out of the game apparently in hopes for saving him for a potential matchup with the Volunteers, saw its gamble backfire. Tech hammered Campbell for 19 hits, piling up 10 runs on starter Jonathan Beyer in less than four innings, and scored in seven of its nine turns at-bat.
Siegel’s role began in the bottom of the third, when he took over for struggling starter Marquis Grissom Jr. with the Jackets ahead 7-4. There were two on and two out when Siegel took the ball from Grissom, and he was successful in recording the third out with just one pitch.
Against a powerful Campbell lineup, Siegel powered through the final 6 ⅓ innings, throwing 98 pitches. Siegel held the Camels to three hits and kept them scoreless until the ninth inning, far exceeding his previous career highs for innings (three) and pitches (54).
In finishing the game, Siegel enabled Tech to not have to dip into its bullpen ahead of the Sunday night matchup with the Volunteers.
The win was also No. 1,348 in the career of Tech coach Danny Hall, making him the winningest active coach at all NCAA levels.
Simpson was the game’s dominant force. He singled sharply in the first, went to third when a pickoff throw to first was errant and then scored on an Andrew Jenkins sacrifice fly.
In the top of the second, Simpson pulled a single to right, stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error and scored on a ground-rule double by Kevin Parada.
In the top of the fourth, he slapped a double down the third-base line, moved to third on a Parada groundout and scored on another Jenkins sacrifice fly.
In the top of the fifth, he laid down a bunt and reached first without even drawing a throw, stole second and scored on a single by Parada. As a team, Tech stole seven bases, its most in a game since at least 2002.
In the bottom of the fifth, Simpson added the defensive play of the game, diving to his right at second base to smother a hard-hit ground ball and initiate a 4-6-3 double play with shortstop Jadyn Jackson.
Simpson, a St. Pius graduate, came to bat in the top of the eighth with a chance to tie the school record for hits in a game but was finally retired, flying out to left.