THE FLATS – Junior Kel Johnson hit a two-run walk-off home run with two outs in the bottom of the 12th to propel the Yellow Jackets to a 4-2 extra inning win over the No. 9 North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday afternoon at Russ Chandler Stadium.
The win is the second extra inning win for the Jackets in the past week, as Tech improves to 12-5 overall and 2-3 in the ACC with the win. North Carolina falls to 14-5 overall and 3-2 in league play with the loss.
Having left runners on base in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings, the Yellow Jackets had a runner on first with two outs when Johnson strolled to the plate. With Wade Bailey leading off first base after a lead-off single, Johnson hit the first pitch over the ACC logo on the right center field wall to give the home team the 4-2 12-inning win.
The Georgia Tech bullpen kept the Jackets in the game, as Robert Winborne (3.1 IP, 3 hits, 1 ER, 4 Ks), Jay Shadday (0.2 IP), Jared Datoc (2.2 IP, 1 hit, 2 Ks) and Zac Ryan (1.1 IP. 2 Ks) combined to allow just one run on four hits over the final eight innings of play. In fact, the Tech bullpen allowed only two hits and three base runners from the seventh inning on in the win.
Ryan (2-0) picked up the win, as the senior recorded a strikeout with two runners on in the 11th and then pitched a perfect 12th in the victory.
Johnson was 1-for-6 with the game-winning two-run home run, which drove in Bailey who was 2-for-5 with a double, a walk, an RBI and two runs scored. Trevor Craport extended his on-base streak to 17 straight games, as the junior was 1-for-4 with an RBI, while Ryan Peurifoy, who made a leaping catch at the wall in center field in the ninth inning, went 1-for-2 with a double, two walks and a run scored.
UNC was led offensively by Tyler Lynn (1-for-3, HR, BB), Michael Busch (1-for-4, HR, BB) and Ashton McGee (3-for-5).
After the Tar Heels stranded two runners in the first and hit into a 4-6-3 double play in the second, North Carolina picked up a solo home run off the bat of Busch to give the visitors in blue a 1-0 lead in the top of the third before Tech starter Jonathan Hughes induced a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning three batters later.
Tech, who stranded a runner in the second, answered the Tar Heels’ run in the bottom half of the third with two runs of its own to take the lead. Peurifoy was hit by a pitch to start the inning and then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Austin Wilhite. Bailey then doubled off the left field wall to score Peurifoy to tie the game up at 1-1.
Following a passed ball that allowed Bailey to move up to third, Craport hit a sacrifice fly to deep left field to plate Bailey and give the home team a 2-1 lead after three complete.
North Carolina threatened to retake the lead in the top of the fifth, as Hughes walked back-to-back batters to start the inning before leaving the game with an apparent injury. Winborne entered the game to get a fly out to center field for the first out in the inning.
The Tar Heels then got a one-out single to left to load the bases and looked for a big inning. However, Winborne had other plans as he got a strikeout and then a chopper to third for the third out of the inning to strand three Tar Heel runners and keep the Jackets on top at 2-1.
Tech was not as fortunate in the top of the sixth, as the Tar Heels again used a solo home run, its fifth of the series, to tie the game up at 2-2.
That is where the score would remain for the next six innings, as neither team could push across the go ahead run until Johnson’s home run in the 12th.
The Yellow Jackets threatened in the seventh with a Peurifoy double and a Wilhite walk, yet left both runners stranded.
North Carolina looked to take the lead in the top of the ninth as Brandon Riley hit a deep fly ball to left center field where a leaping Peurifoy made the grab at the wall for the out.
Georgia Tech turned three double plays on the day, but also grounded into two double plays of its own in the late innings.
The Jackets (12-5, 2-3 ACC) and Tar Heels (14-5, 3-2 ACC) return to action tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m. at Russ Chandler Stadium for the third and final game of the three-game weekend series.