A four-run ninth inning boosted Georgia Tech to a 6-3 victory over Illinois and into the Nashville NCAA regional final Sunday at Hawkins Field.
The win did come at a cost as right fielder Daniel Palka (leg) and third baseman and Sam Dove (hamstring), a Brentwood Academy graduate, were injured.
Coach Danny Hall said both were questionable for Sunday night against Vanderbilt (7 p.m., ESPNU). Georgia Tech needed to win that one in order to force a decisive game Monday. The Commodores needed only to win to advance to the Super Regional.
The Yellow Jackets went into the ninth trailing 3-2. Kyle Wren tied the score with a single, which scored Thomas Smith. They took the lead with a double from Matt Gonzalez, who replaced Dove in the sixth inning.
Zane Evans’ single drove in the final run. He finished 3-for-5 with two RBIs. He also pitched the last three innings for Tech.
“He has been doing it all year and that is what we expect him to do,” Wren said. “He had that huge clutch hit in the ninth inning to give us that little extra padding and pitched great as well.”
Georgia Tech (36-26) didn’t lead until the ninth inning. Dove’s single in the sixth sparked a two-run inning, which tied 2-2, but he limped off the field after he reached first and did not return.
The Illini (35-20) jumped back in front in the eighth when Jordan Parr hit an inside-the-park home run.
His shot to right field landed between Georgia Tech center fielder Brandon Thomas and Palka. They collided and stayed on the turf, which allowed Parr to round the bases and gave Illinois a 3-2 lead. It was his third home run of the regional and ninth on the season.
Evans, who relieved starter and Murfreesboro native Jonathan King in the sixth, worked around runners on the corners with no outs to keep the deficit to one run going into the last inning.
“[The home run] was pretty devastating at first because it looked like it was going to be caught,” Wren said. “Zane did a great job of getting out of that situation without giving up another run. Getting out of that inning and allowing just one run really gave us our edge back.”
The Illini just missed reaching their second regional final in three years despite Parr’s best efforts. He went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. His twin brother, Justin, was 2-for-4 with one stolen base and a run scored.
The seniors’ college careers ended with the defeat.
“I can’t say enough about my relationship with Justin, he is my best friend,” Jordan said. “It is my dream come true to play with him at Illinois and it was sweet to have that opportunity.”