ATLANTA - A year ago, Jeff Kindel didn't even make Georgia Tech's postseason roster.
Friday the pitcher-turned-right fielder delivered the game-winning single in the Yellow Jackets' NCAA tournament opener, the biggest highlight in an amazing turnaround season.
Kindel's 10th-inning blast off the right field wall scored Whit Robbins from second base and gave the top-seeded Yellow Jackets a hard-fought 5-4 victory against No. 4 seed Furman.
It was a scenario that Kindel wouldn't have even dreamed up a year ago.
"No chance at all," he said.
Tech plays second-seeded South Carolina, which defeated Michigan 6-5 in Friday's opener, today at 4 p.m. Michigan, the third seed, and Furman meet in an elimination game today at noon.
"(Kindel) had a great at-bat and came up with a huge hit to keep us in the winners' bracket," Tech coach Danny Hall said. "I was glad to see him come up with a guy in scoring position in the last inning."
It was two at-bats in a blowout last season that first allowed Kindel to catch Hall's attention. A seldom-used pitcher during his first three years at Tech, Kindel hasn't returned to the mound since collecting two hits against Georgia State last year.
This season the redshirt junior has been one of the team's top hitters. Entering NCAA play, Kindel was batting .367 with a team-high 22 doubles as the team's starting right fielder.
"Seeing what little opportunity did for him and the way he's taken advantage of it is amazing," pitcher Tim Gustafson, a Parkview grad, said. "He went from nothing to a great opportunity."
Opportunity came again in the 10th inning Friday. With two on and two out, he stepped to the plate against Furman reliever Nick Hollstegge, the Paladins' fifth pitcher of the day. Kindel drove Hollstegge's 2-2 change up off the wall.
"I tried to get a pitch a little in or a little up that I could drive," said Kindel, who went 1-for-5 Friday.
His blast ended a tense three-and-a-half hour affair for the Yellow Jackets.
Trailing 1-0, Tech took the lead with three unearned runs in the third inning. Furman first baseman Case Cassedy missed first base while trying to secure the third out of the inning, leading the way to three runs.
Replays showed Cassedy did not step on the bag, but might have nipped it with his toe.
"What do you think his take was?" said Furman coach Ron Smith, who along with Cassedy argued the call.
But Furman, winners of seven straight entering the game, hung tough by holding the nation's second highest scoring offense (9.7 runs per game) in check. Tech left 12 runners on base, including five by Kindel.
Then the Yellow Jackets, who have experienced postseason woes in recent years, gave their fans reason for worry. Back-to-back errors in the sixth inning helped Furman tie the game.
"There's some tension and maybe even pressing a little bit. If you keep teams like that around for a while, they'll gain confidence as the game goes on. And they could easily come back to beat you," Gustafson said. "There is tension because you don't want to wait until it's too late. But I think our team handles it a lot better than past years."
Tech regained the lead on Andy Hawranick's bases-loaded single in the seventh, but Furman tied the game off Gustafson in the eighth.
Gustafson, who earned the victory, shut down Furman for the next two innings, allowing Kindel to be the hero in the 10th.
South Carolina 6, Michigan 5
Steve Pearce's infield single in bottom of the ninth inning scored Davy Gregg with the winning run. Gregg led off the inning with a bunt single, advanced to second on a fielder's choice and moved to third when Michigan failed to cover the base. The Wolverines had tied the back-and-forth affair with two outs in the top of the ninth.