Georgia Tech reaches ACC baseball tournament with dramatic win over Pitt

Tim Borden (No. 8) and Tres Gonzalez (No. 3) celebrate at home plate after scoring in the fourth inning of Georgia Tech's 7-5 win over No. 3 Miami April 30, 2022 at Russ Chandler Stadium. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

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Tim Borden (No. 8) and Tres Gonzalez (No. 3) celebrate at home plate after scoring in the fourth inning of Georgia Tech's 7-5 win over No. 3 Miami April 30, 2022 at Russ Chandler Stadium. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

As ever, there was nothing tidy about Georgia Tech’s game at Pittsburgh on Thursday night, but the result (along with that of another ACC matchup) was nevertheless most suitable for the Yellow Jackets’ aims.

Perhaps a bit later in the season than they would have liked, the Jackets earned their spot in the 12-team ACC Tournament with an 8-7 win over the Panthers combined with Duke’s 15-11 loss at Virginia Tech. With four tournament spots remaining and five teams in contention in the final weekend of the regular season, Tech improved to 13-15 in league play (31-21 overall) while Duke fell to 10-18 (23-30 overall). With two games remaining for both teams, the results made it impossible for the Blue Devils to catch the Jackets and thus assured one of the four places at the table for Tech. Pitt, already in the ACC Tournament, dropped to 27-24 and 13-14.

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Again, Tech’s ailing pitching injected high drama into the night. The Jackets jumped to a 6-0 lead in the top of the first and a 7-0 lead after 2½ innings. Drew Compton cranked a three-run home run in the first (his 14th of the season) and Tim Borden hit a solo blast in the third (his 17th of the season).

But Tech ran into trouble in the bottom of the fifth while up 7-1 when the first five batters reached base against starter John Medich, one via error and three by walk. With one out and the bases loaded, Medich gave up a double that drove in three, closed the gap to 7-6 and completed his start.

Still down 7-6 in the bottom of the eighth, Pitt tied the score when reliever Zach Maxwell yielded a game-tying solo home run to Tatem Levins, his 16th of the season.

It was an unsurprising development for a team that entered the game ranked in the top 10 in Division I in scoring (9.1 runs per game) and in the bottom quartile in ERA (6.59).

But with two out in the top of the ninth, Tech answered when Andrew Jenkins took reliever Baron Stuart deep for a solo home run and an 8-7 lead.

Maxwell came back out for the ninth and, after putting the first runner on base via walk, retired the next three batters in order for the win. Maxwell threw the final 2-2/3 innings with the one run allowed, striking out four and walking one.

Beyond eliminating the possibility of potentially becoming the first Tech team ever not to make it into the ACC Tournament field (it has been a limited-entry field since 2006), the Jackets also helped further secure their spot in the NCAA Tournament. While Tech started the day ranked No. 25 in RPI, the Jackets also had the worst record of any team in the top 40, which put them on the “last four in” list (albeit 61st) of D1Baseball.com’s projected NCAA Tournament bracket published Thursday morning.

Tech and Pitt will play again at Cost Field on Friday and Saturday. Marquis Grissom will start for the Jackets in the second game, with Saturday’s starter to be determined.