Yellow Jackets fall in an NCAA regional again, ousted by rival Georgia

Georgia Tech Logan McGuire reacts after watching Georgia score three runs in the 10th inning during the Athens Regional at Foley Field on Sunday, June 2, 2024, in Athens.
(Miguel Martinez / AJC)

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Georgia Tech Logan McGuire reacts after watching Georgia score three runs in the 10th inning during the Athens Regional at Foley Field on Sunday, June 2, 2024, in Athens. (Miguel Martinez / AJC)

ATHENS – The Yellow Jackets are coming home early, yet again.

Georgia Tech squandered chance after chance to keep its season – and Super Regional hopes – alive Sunday by losing to Georgia 8-6 in 10 innings at Foley Field in the Athens Regional. The loss ended Tech’s season at 33-25.

The Jackets still haven’t advanced past an NCAA regional since 2006. They needed to beat UGA (42-15) on Sunday night and then again Monday to make that happen, and they came oh-so-close to making the first part of that equation happen. But like so many painful postseasons of years past, Tech faded into the night despite being three outs away from victory in the top of the ninth and having the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom half in a tie game.

Tech also had the bases loaded with no one out in the 10th, but could only muster one run on a sacrifice fly off Leighton Finley, typically a starting pitcher for the Bulldogs.

Georgia advances to host North Carolina State in the Bulldogs’ first Super Regional since 2008.

“I said it earlier, we had guys at the plate we’d like to have at the plate,” said Tech coach Danny Hall, now through 31 seasons and 1,203 wins with Tech. “You gotta give Leighton Finley some credit. Leighton has been a big factor for them this year.”

The Jackets were in the position they were in Sunday partly due to a 9-0 loss to UNC Wilmington on Friday. They got off the mat to beat Army 4-2 on Saturday and UNCW 3-1 on Saturday afternoon given themselves an opportunity to play the No. 7 national seed Bulldogs on Sunday night.

But Tech ran out of steam to finish as a regional runner-up for the 10th time in 12 regionals since 2006. Little consolation for Hall’s program which scored just 2.8 runs per game over four contests and hit 5-for-27 with runners in scoring position for the regional.

“At this time of the year, anyone that can win their conference tournament, they’re gonna have good arms. I thought Wilmington’s staff was definitely a Power 5 staff. They were good. The Army guy we faced, he really kept us off-balance with cutters and the brought in a couple guys with some good fastballs. Then, obviously, (Georgia starter Zach) Harris today, he settled in very well.

“This time of year, you’re going to start facing legit arms. No at-bat is a freebie as a hitter. If you’re not stepping into the box with a plan, you’re gonna get exposed. We definitely had a plan, it’s just facing good competition this time of year.”

Georgia’s winning rally in the 10th started with a Riley Stanford pitch that hit Tre Phelps’ jersey. Paul Toetz lined a single to center before Fernando Gonzalez dropped a sac bunt to third. Carson Kerce fielded the ball on the run and threw it away allowing Phelps to score.

Tate McKee came out of the Tech pen and got two outs after that, but Corey Collins roped a two-run double into the right-field gap making it 8-5, an insurmountable lead for Tech.

“They have a great lineup,” Hall said of the Bulldogs. “They can hurt you a lot of different ways.”

Phelps had brought the Bulldogs within one by blasting a solo shot out to left to start the eighth and then Kolby Branch launched a solo homer to left to lead off the ninth to tie the game at 5-all.

The Jackets loaded the bases in the ninth and very nearly won it on Payton Green’s roller to first, but Collins fielded the ball and pitched it reliever Chandler Marsh (2-0) covering the bag to barely get Green and to send the game to extras.

“If (Collins) doesn’t make that play we win the game,” Hall said.

Tech starter Mason Patel got off to a rough start Sunday as his first pitch hit Collins in the arm and his second pitch was rolled through the right side by Charlie Condon. Dylan Goldstein ripped an RBI single to right making it 1-0 before Slate Alford plated another with an RBI groundout.

The Jackets came back in their half thanks to a one-out triple by Drew Burress. Matthew Ellis reached out and slung a single into right to put Tech on the board.

In the second, Mike Becchetti hit a lead-off double into the left-field corner and then Green walked. After a strikeout, Vahn Lackey came up and deposited an 0-1 offering from Harris into the trees out to left making it 4-2.

Cam Jones kept the offense going with a bloop single to right and then, after a fly out, Georgia left fielder Clayton Chadwick dropped a line drive by Ellis allowing Tech to have runners at the corners. Giesler dropped an RBI single into center making it 5-2.

But that would be the last offense Tech would speak of.

Patel held onto that 5-2 lead into the fifth, but he was immediately in the thick of it after a single and a one-out walk brought Condon to the plate. Condon hit a solid single to center to plate a run and to cut UGA’s deficit to 5-3.

Patel was lifted after 4 1/3 innings, a season high. He held UGA to three earned runs on six hits. Harris battled for the Bulldogs, hanging around despite allowing the five early runs. He completed six innings and threw 109 pitches.