Rob Fitzgerald celebrates as he rounds third base during his go-ahead two-run home run off Matt Wieters during the ninth inning at Russ Chandler Stadium during the NCAA Super Regional in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)
June 10, 2005
ATLANTA - With one powerful swing of the bat in the top of the ninth inning Friday, senior Rob Fitzgerald lifted the Tennessee baseball team past national No. 2 seed Georgia Tech in the opening game of the NCAA Atlanta Super Regional at Russ Chandler Stadium. Fitzgerald's clutch, two-run homer gave the Volunteers a dramatic 3-2 victory and put UT just one win away from a berth in the College World Series.
The Vols (45-19) entered the game with an 0-18 record when trailing after eight innings, and despite tying a season-low with just four total hits, were able to reverse those fortunes.
Georgia Tech managed just five hits and also committed three errors. The Yellow Jackets dropped to 45-18.
Fitzgerald finished with a game-high two RBIs - both of which came on his sixth home run of the season.
"That was the biggest hit of my career," Fitzgerald said. "This is the Super Regionals, and it puts us one game away from (the College World Series in) Omaha. This is what it's all about."
Sophomore right-hander Sean Watson worked the final two innings for Tennessee and picked up the win to improve to 7-3 on the year. He allowed no runs on no hits while striking out two.
After reaching on a single in the top of the first inning, Tennessee designated hitter Eli Iorg advanced to second base when third baseman Chase Headley drew a walk. Headley's 61st walk of the season tied him with former Vols All-America Todd Helton for first place in UT's single-season record book.
Later in the first, senior shortstop Eric King struck out but took first base on a wild pitch. Tech catcher Andy Hawranick attempted to throw King out at first, but the throw eluded first baseman Matt Wieters. Headley took third on the throwing error, and Iorg scored to give the Vols an early 1-0 lead.
The Yellow Jackets failed to put a runner in scoring position until the bottom of the fourth inning when they loaded the bases on a fielding error with two outs. Tech's Jeremy Slayden managed to score on a passed ball, tying the score at one before Vols All-America pitcher Luke Hochevar got Hawranick to ground out and end the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, a double by Tech outfielder Steven Blackwood put runners on second and third base with two outs. A balk then enabled third baseman Wes Hodges to come home and give the Yellow Jackets their first lead of the day.
Tennessee didn't record its second hit until the top of the eighth inning, when Freshman All-America catcher J.P. Arencibia hit a grounder to third base and beat the throw to first. Headley followed Arencibia to the plate and drew his 62nd walk of the year, moving him past Helton for the new Tennessee single-season record.
Vols pinch hitter Kelly Edmundson led off the top of the ninth with a single to left field, and senior Joey Andrews entered the game as a pinch runner. Junior second baseman Michael Rivera then advanced Andrews to second base with a sacrifice bunt. That set the stage for the Fitzgerald's heroics.
Hochevar struck out 11 batters while giving up two runs (one earned) on five hits in seven innings.
Tech starter Blake Wood left the game after allowing one unearned run on just one hit with two walks and three strikeouts in seven innings of action. First baseman Matt Wieters - who also doubles as Tech's closer - replaced Wood and was touched for two runs on three hits. Wieters (3-3) was credited with the loss.
Freshman left-hander James Adkins (9-4, 3.20 ERA) is slated to start for the Vols Saturday, while Georgia Tech has not announced a starter. Saturday's contest begins at 1 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN2. With a win, Tennessee would clinch its fourth all-time College World Series berth.