ATLANTA Buck Farmer wasn’t at this best Friday against one of the nation’s top hitting teams, but he was good enough to allow his team to get a big come back victory.
Farmer allowed 12 base-runners but just four earned runs in seven innings of work in Georgia Tech’s 5-4, walk-off win against Atlantic Coast Conference-leading North Carolina.
Tech (31-19, 13-12 ACC) shortstop Mott Hyde hit a solo home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning to get the hosts a series-opening victory.
North Carolina (44-5, 19-4), ranked No. 1 by Baseball America, had its ace on the mound as well and left-hander Kent Emanuel took the loss in a complete game effort.
The seventh was the Rockdale graduate’s final inning, and it turned out to be his best. Using just 11 pitches, the senior from Conyers got a pair of weak ground outs and the last of his six strike outs to keep the game tied.
Farmer, who threw a season-high 118 pitches (his most in a start since May of 2012), remained stuck on 32 career wins. The right-hander’s next victory will tie him with Chuck Crowder (1996-1999) for third on the school’s all-time wins list.
Daniel Palka relieved Farmer in the eighth and retired all six batters he faced to pick up the win. After A.J. Murray struck out to start the ninth, Hyde hit a 3-1 pitch high over the left field wall, setting off a jubilant celebration at Russ Chandler Stadium.
“(Palka has) come up big for us. I couldn’t be prouder of him,” Farmer said of his junior teammate. “(The walk-off) feels unbelievable. I felt like something big was going to happen. It’s just one of those things that could turn a season around.”
In the first, Farmer surrendered a walk and a single, then fell behind 3-1 to the dangerous Colin Moran, but worked out of trouble by getting Moran to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
He wasn’t as lucky in the second, despite striking out the side. After a two-out walk to Mike Zolk, Farmer served up Parks Jordan’s first career home run, a two-run shot to give the Tar Heels the early lead.
Tech’s offense got going in a big way in the third as the bottom of the order ignited a four-run rally. No. 8 hitter Matt Gonzalez led off with a single, and after consecutive triples by No. 9 hitter Thomas Smith and Kyle Wren made it 3-2, Zane Evans, who came into the game seventh in the nation in home runs, crushed his 14th to left-center field to put the Yellow Jackets ahead for the first time at 4-3.
Farmer lost the lead in the fifth when Moran ripped his team-high 13th home run to dead center field to pull the teams even at 4-4.
"It was down...(Moran) got a good bat on it," Farmer said.
In the sixth, the Rockdale graduate allowed a single and hit with a pitch the No. 9 hitter, Korey Dunbar, but squirmed out of trouble with a fly out and a strike out.
“I knew I was going to have to go out and battle," Farmer said. "When I was in the pen (before the game) I realized I didn’t have my best stuff. Tonight was just a battle all the way around.”
"We really debated on whether to pull him after the sixth inning, he said he felt good," Tech coach Danny Hall said of Farmer. "I really credit him because he didn't have his best stuff, it was a battle. But to his credit he just kept hanging in there."