ATLANTA - Georgia Tech got another scare from Stetson in the NCAA baseball tournament.
This time, the Yellow Jackets survived.
Michael Fisher hit a grand slam for his first homer of the season and top-seeded Georgia Tech held off the Hatters 7-5 Saturday in the opening round of the Atlanta Regional.
The Yellow Jackets (46-16) jumped ahead 7-0 before Stetson rallied for five runs in the eighth. Stetson had the bases loaded after two Georgia Tech errors, but Brad Rulon got cleanup hitter Chris Johnson on a called third strike to finally end the inning.
Matt Wieters, who hit a two-run homer in the first, finished off the pesky Hatters (38-23) by striking out David Golliner with two runners aboard in the ninth.
Three years ago, Stetson opened the Atlanta regional with a 5-4 upset of the home team, which lost its next game as well. Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall insisted that he wasn't thinking about the past as the Hatters tried to pull out another improbable win.
"I never felt it slipping away," he said. "I always felt we were a pitch away or a play away from getting out of there. Brad made a big pitch to get it done."
The game was postponed Friday night because of heavy rains, forcing both teams to play two games on Saturday.
Georgia Tech had to return in the evening for a winner's-bracket game against Vanderbilt. Stetson was back on the field less than an hour later, facing Michigan in an elimination game.
Blake Wood (10-4) pitched seven scoreless innings, stretching to 22 his streak of innings without allowing an earned run in the NCAA tournament. The Hatters knocked him out in the eighth, sending 11 hitters to the plate.
Georgia Tech used four pitchers in the inning before Rulon finally got out of the mess. Johnson, who had an RBI single earlier in the eighth, was caught looking on a borderline pitch. He slammed his bat in disgust and yelled something toward home plate umpire Terry Barrmann.
Barrmann faced the Yellow Jackets' wrath a couple of hitters earlier when he ruled that Brandon Paritz barely tipped a pitch in the dirt on what would have been strike three. Paritz wound up reaching on a throwing error by third baseman Whit Robbins, and Fisher botched a routine grounder to shortstop to extend the inning even more.
"The two homers gave us a jumpstart, and Blake pitched well until he tired a little bit in the eighth," Hall said. "It was a crazy inning. We allowed them to get back into it."
Wieters got Georgia Tech rolling with a wind-aided, two-run homer that barely cleared the right-field wall. Adam Tindle actually broke in on the ball before turning the other way.
"I thought that shot was going farther than the right fielder was making it look," said Wieters, who caught the first eight innings before shedding his gear to pitch the ninth, earning his seventh save. "I didn't know if it was out, but the right fielder made it look like it was going to be a routine fly ball."
The Yellow Jackets put up five runs in the third with Stetson starter Corey Kluber (6-5) on the cusp of escaping a bases-loaded, no-outs jam.
After striking out Wes Hodges and getting Luke Murton on a fly to short left, Mike Trapani was hit by a pitch to force in a run. The weakest hitter in the Georgia Tech lineup followed with the biggest hit of the game.
Fisher, a sophomore with only two career homers, got another ball up into the strong wind blowing toward right. His grand slam pushed the Yellow Jackets a seemingly comfortable 7-0 lead.
"Coach Hall said to stay off the high pitches and I accidentally didn't do that," Fisher sheepishly admitted. "Early in the year, I was just hitting them to the warning track, so it felt good to finally hit one out."
Nathan Nery gave the Hatters a chance to rally. He replaced Kluber after the third and threw 4 2-3 scoreless innings.
Stetson got off to a good start, loading the bases with no outs in the first.
Wood plunked a couple of hitters and surrendered a single to Paritz, but managed to wiggle out of it with help from the defense. Johnson struck out and Jeff Kindel finished off an inning-ending double play, throwing out Shane Jordan at the plate when he tagged on Brian Pruitt's fly ball to left.
"We squandered too many opportunities early," Stetson coach Pete Dunn said. "We had a shot, but we just didn't get it done. Those men left on base early came back to haunt us."
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