Fisher's bat takes over for Tech

By Adam Van Brimmer

Morris News Service

ATLANTA - Michael Fisher is the one regular on Georgia Tech's baseball team who can be classified strictly as a defensive specialist.

Yet Saturday in the NCAA regional, the Yellow Jacket shortstop dazzled as much with his bat as his glove.

Fisher drove in six runs on four hits in a pair of Georgia Tech victories at Russ Chandler Stadium. He hit a grand-slam homer in a 7-5 victory over Stetson on Saturday morning and broke open a 7-3 win against Vanderbilt with a two-run single Saturday night.

The homer was the first of the season for Fisher, who bats ninth in Georgia Tech's order. He came into the regional hitting .264 - worst among the regulars and one of only two hitting under .300 - with just 10 extra-base hits and 32 RBI in 208 at-bats in 2006.

His offense helped the Yellow Jackets move within a victory of advancing to the super-regional round for the third straight year. They have lost in the best-of-three series the last two seasons, falling to Georgia in 2004 and Tennessee in 2005.

Georgia Tech must beat either Vanderbilt or Michigan in the regional championship first. The Commodores and Wolverines play in a 1 p.m. loser's bracket game today.

The Vandy-Michigan winner would have to beat Georgia Tech twice to win the regional. The first game is scheduled for 5 p.m. today. The second game, if necessarily, is at 3 p.m. Monday.

The Yellow Jackets (47-16) will have much of their pitching staff available for the next two days thanks to strong starts Saturday by Blake Wood and Lee Hyde. Wood pitched into the eighth inning against Stetson while Hyde lasted into the seventh versus Vanderbilt.

Hyde took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Commodores. Vandy's David Macias broke it up with a one-out double that led to a two-run Commodore inning. Ryan Flaherty doubled home Macias and Pedro Alvarez to cut Georgia Tech's lead to 5-2.

Hyde's struggles continued an inning later. He gave up two doubles to start the seventh inning and was relieved by Tim Ladd. Ladd walked the first two hitters he faced to load the bases before coaxing a pair of fly balls to end the inning.

Brad Rulon worked the eighth and ninth innings.

Wood (10-4) pitched just the opposite of Hyde in the first game. He struggled early, allowing Stetson to load the bases in the first two innings before working out of trouble and then settling down.

The Hatters finally broke through for five runs in the eighth inning. Four of the first five hitters reached base, knocking Wood out of the game. Georgia Tech committed two errors to extend the inning before reliever Brad Rulon struck out Stetson's Braedyn Pruitt with the bases loaded to end the threat.

"I never felt like it was slipping away," Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall said. "I felt like we were a pitch away or a play away from getting out of there. Brad made a big pitch to get it done."

Stetson stranded 13 runners in the loss. Michigan eliminated the Hatters later Saturday afternoon with an 11-1 victory.

Fisher's home run came in the fifth inning of the Stetson game. Helped by a steady breeze to right field, the grand slam gave Georgia Tech a 7-0 lead.

"Coach Hall has been telling me to stay off the high pitches and I accidentally didn't do that," said Fisher when asked about his homer. "Earlier in the year I was hitting them to the warning track so it felt good to finally hit one out."

Matt Wieters also homered in the first game, one of six hits on the day for the sophomore. He also walked three times to reach base in nine of his 10 plate appearances.

Right-hander Ryan Turner (3-3) will start Georgia Tech's game today. Turner has been in a funk for much of the last two months. His last win game came against Virginia Tech on April 9. He allowed five earned runs in 9-1⁄3 innings in last week's Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.