Farmer's gem keeps Tech alive

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Senior Buck Farmer was in complete command of East Tennessee State, but it was a nearly two-hour lightning delay in the seventh inning that knocked him from the game as Georgia Tech staved off elimination Saturday at Hawkins Field with a 5-1 win over the Buccaneers in the Nashville Regional.

The second-seeded Yellow Jackets built a 5-0 lead for Farmer when the inclement weather moved in, and Jonathan Roberts fired three effective innings after the break to finish off the victory and keep his team alive.

In another elimination game today at 3 p.m., Tech (35-26) faces the loser of Saturday night's Vanderbilt/Illinois game. ETSU, which won the Atlantic Sun championship, finished the season 36-24.

Farmer threw just 58 pitches with 46 strikes over a dominant six innings while his offense built a 5-0 lead off ETSU All-American pitcher Kerry Doane. Tech's senior ace struck out eight against no walks and allowed just two base runners (two singles), improving to 9-4 this season, 33-12 in his career and to 2-1 in NCAA postseason action.

No batter advanced past first base against Farmer. The Conyers native tossed four different 1-2-3 innings and he retired the final seven batters he faced before the inclement weather moved in at the seventh-inning stretch.

"I thought it was certainly a very good game by our team," said head coach Danny Hall. "Obviously Buck (Farmer) dominated the game. Brandon (Thomas) and some of our other guys had some timely hits. I thought it was critical that we get runs early because we certainly were expecting a tough pitcher on the other end."

Saturday's game matched up two of the nation's best starting pitchers with Farmer and ETSU's Doane, who entered the game with a 1.99 ERA, the nation's second-most wins (13-1) and the NCAA's most complete games (12).

But Tech got to Doane early, scoring once in the first and once in the second to give Farmer an early cushion. Sam Dove and Daniel Palka hit back-to-back singles in the first as Dove rifled one into center and Palka laced an offering past the first baseman to put runners at the corners. Zane Evans lifted him team-leading sixth sac fly to center, Dove scored and the Jackets had a 1-0 lead.

In the second, Daniel Spingola reached on a one-out fielder's choice, stole second and scored when Kyle Wren went the other way and slammed an RBI double off the Green Monster in left for a 2-0 advantage.

"We felt like he was going to throw strikes," said Hall of Doane. "We wanted to be pretty aggressive early, and we felt like he'd give us some pitches to hit. I think he probably, in my mind, and I'd never seen him throw before, probably made some mistakes today, got some balls up that he usually doesn't make those mistakes, and to our guys' credit they hit the ball up."

Doane dodged Jacket base runners in the third and fourth, but Tech went back to work in the fifth after Evans ripped a one-out single up the middle. Evans sprinted home from first and slid safely under the tag at the plate thanks to Brandon Thomas' RBI double off the wall in the right-field gap.

Thomas finished the game 2-for-4 and reached three times on a single, a double and a walk. Dove was 2-for-4 with a walk and a run and Mott Hyde had two hits and an RBI.

With inclement weather closing in, the Jackets tacked on two key insurance runs in the top of the seventh and the game entered a lightning delay after Tech's two-run, two-hit uprising. Evans drew a walk to get the inning started, and A.J. Murray's one-out single put two aboard. Evans scored from second when Hyde's hard-hit RBI single bounced off the glove of third baseman Alex Reynolds. Spingola delivered a sac fly to center in the next at bat to make it 5-0.

A 5-0 margin, instead of 3-0, made the decision not to bring Farmer back after a nearly two-hour lightning delay more manageable. The game was halted after the top of the seventh at 3:57 p.m. CT and resumed at 5:45 p.m. with Roberts on the hill.

"I think you're always concerned," said Hall of the delay. "I was glad we'd gotten those two runs in the top of the seventh so it was 5-0 lead as opposed to a 3-0 lead. I really felt like they weren't going to score on Buck."

Roberts picked up where Farmer left off, retiring four consecutive Buccaneers before a one-out walk in the eighth snapped a streak of 11 straight retired by Tech pitching. A pair of errors in the ninth gave the Bucs some life, but Roberts worked a ground out, a sac fly from Kevin Phillips that ended the shutout and a line-out to end it.

Doane absorbed just his second loss (13-2), allowing 10 hits, five runs and four walks in seven innings. His only previous loss was March 16 versus USC-Upstate. Chris Riopedre lifted a two-out single into left for ETSU's first hit of the game in the third inning.