GREENSBORO – Georgia Tech had to play its way into the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament. The Yellow Jackets never played themselves out.
A.J. Murray drove in three runs, and Georgia Tech won its second ACC title in three years, beating Maryland, 9-4, on Sunday.
Freshman Connor Justus capped a three-run eighth inning with a two-run single that helped send the ninth-seeded Yellow Jackets (36-25) to their ninth conference title.
They claimed the ACC’s automatic NCAA Tournament berth, matched Clemson for the most titles in league history and became the lowest seed to win the tournament championship.
“Getting into the championship round’s the hardest thing,” Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall said. “So once you get there, if you play well, you’ve got a chance to win. These guys, they played their hearts out the whole week.”
Blake Schmit homered and Anthony Papio drove in two runs for sixth-seeded and Big Ten-bound Maryland (36-21), a strong candidate to receive its first NCAA Tournament invitation since 1971.
“The teams we played this week are as good, if not better, than the teams we’re going to face next weekend in the regional,” Papio said.
Georgia Tech fell behind 4-3 in the sixth before tying it on Mitch Earnest’s sacrifice fly an inning later. Then, the Yellow Jackets took control with a big eighth.
Daniel Spingola led off with a double to left. Matt Gonzalez bunted him to third, and pitcher Kevin Mooney’s throw to first sailed well into the seats. Spingola scored to make it 5-4, and Gonzalez moved to second.
Murray then walked and went to second on a wild pitch, and Justus’ single through a drawn-in infield scored them both, making it 7-4. Gonzalez and Murray added RBI singles in the ninth.
Winning pitcher Jonathan Roberts (1-2) worked a scoreless inning of relief for Georgia Tech, which won the event as the No. 8 seed two years ago – the last time it was played in Greensboro.
“We fought our way in by winning the game against Wake,” Hall said, “and then (we) went on a great run,” said Hall, whose team won a play-in game against the Demon Deacons.
They took care of the Terrapins in the final ACC game in any sport of their 62-year affiliation with the league.
“There’s really good teams in this league,” Maryland coach John Szefc said. “I’m not saying that we won’t get that in the Big Ten, because I think we will, but ... there are some special baseball programs in this league.”
It also marked their first conference title game since 1976, and they leave the league never having won this tournament. All three of their conference crowns came before the switch to a tournament format.
Maryland took its only lead in the sixth after loading the bases against Matt Grimes with nobody out. Papio tied it with an RBI single and Tim Lewis made it 4-3 when he scored from third on Kevin Martir’s double-play groundout.
Mooney (1-2) allowed three runs in one inning of relief for the Terps, who suffered a late-inning meltdown for the second straight day. North Carolina broke a 7-all tie with six runs in the eighth inning of a 13-7 victory over Maryland on Saturday.
“Our bullpen has been pretty good all year, and I can’t knock our bullpen,” Szefc said. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t there (Sunday).”