Georgia Tech Eliminates Birdball in ACC Playoffs

On Saturday afternoon, Boston College had a little help from the baseball gods.

Not only did the Eagles need to sweep their doubleheader with No. 25 Georgia Tech on the road, but they also needed North Carolina to lose to NC State in order to clinch their first ACC playoff berth since 2010. By the end of the day, Justin Dunn had thrown a complete game gem, the Yellow Jackets had left a season-high 15 runners on base, UNC got clobbered 10-1, and Birdball was suddenly headed to Durham, N.C., for the first time in the Mike Gambino era.

But on Tuesday, there was no such divine intervention.

This time, it was BC (31-20) who couldn’t manage a clutch hit in a single-elimination rematch with Georgia Tech (36-20) in the opening round of the ACC Baseball Tournament. The Eagles put the leadoff man on base four times in the first six innings, but ultimately stranded nine runners—including leaving the bases loaded twice—in a 6-0 loss to the Yellow Jackets at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Georgia Tech ace Brandon Gold kept the BC lineup off balance with a sharp slider, racking up six strikeouts in 6 2/3 scoreless innings. Whereas the Eagles struggled with stringing together multiple base hits throughout an inning, the Yellow Jackets generated most of their offense with one swing of the bat via the long ball. Trevor Craport, Matt Gonzalez, and Tristin English each homered as part of a 13-hit effort that ended Birdball’s conference postseason hopes. Next Monday, the team will find out if its 31-win season, which featured six ACC series wins, is enough for an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.

“Anybody else in the SEC and ACC that [has] won six of their conference series, they are going to host,” Gambino told media after the loss. “I know that we are not a team that we’re talking about hosting, but to me if everybody else that’s in the same category that we are is hosting regionals, that’s got to put us in.”

Jesse Adams made his first start for BC since March, when Dunn entered the rotation as a Saturday starter and pushed Adams into the closer’s role. Before the switch, Adams had been roughed up by opponents for a 2-3 record and an ERA of 5.54. Since Adams made the transition into the bullpen, he had allowed only three runs in 15 2/3 innings, tallying three wins and five saves along the way.

In his first time through the order, Adams worked the corners beautifully with his go-to changeup. As the Georgia Tech lineup began to pick up on his slow fastball, however, Adams looked more like the struggling starter than the dominant closer that Gambino had seen during the second half of the year. He would surrender two runs on five hits before being replaced with ace Mike King in the fifth inning. With just one out and runners on first and second, King needed only one pitch to induce an inning-ending double play and escape the jam.

BC loaded the bases in both the sixth and seventh innings but couldn’t scrape any runs across the plate, as the offense lacked that crucial big hit. Closer Matthew Gorst, who sports a .49 ERA (no, that’s not a typo), shut the door for the final 2 1/3 innings for the Yellow Jackets to earn his 12th save of the season.

Down 3-0 and still within striking distance after the eighth inning, the Eagles gave up three runs in the ninth inning that essentially sealed the game in favor of Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets will advance to the pool play stage of the tournament against No. 1 Miami tomorrow.

For now, all Gambino & Co. can do is wait. Once again, their fate is in the hands of the baseball gods—well, technically, the Division I Baseball Committee. Although Birdball has compiled an impressive resume during a season full of weather and travel complications, an early exit from the ACC Tournament on Tuesday certainly didn’t help its case.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

May 25, 2016

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