Buck Farmer pitched well Wednesday in the ACC Tournament opener at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, but heading into the top of the ninth was in line for a loss. Down to their last out, the Yellow Jackets' offense bailed out their ace pitcher.
The seventh-seeded Yellow Jackets were one out away from dropping their tournament opener when A.J. Murray and Mott Hyde hit back-to-back home runs -- each long ball bounced on top of and over the left field wall -- and Tech hung on for a 4-3 victory over No. 2 seed Florida State.
Tech, which also beat Florida State in the tournament opener on its way to the 2012 conference title, will continue pool play against No. 3 seed Virginia at 11 a.m. today.
Robby Coles had come on to try to protect a 3-2 lead in the ninth, and the right-hander got two routine groundouts. But that's when the dramatics began for Tech. First, Murray launched the tying shot, which was the first home run Coles had allowed all season. Hyde followed with the go-ahead blast, just a few feet to the left of Murray's hit.
"It was a great win for us to be down to our last out, to get a home run by A.J. Murray that scraped over the wall and then Mott backed it up, really just over the wall," Tech coach Danny Hall said. "I kind of thought A.J.'s was going to hit the wall and I thought Mott's was out, but they're home runs. We're excited to have a win against a great team."
"I was telling coach (Hall), I saw A.J. Murray's (batting practice) today and it was looking good," said Hyde, who hit all six of his home runs in Tech's last 21 games. "I knew he was going to do something big today."
Daniel Palka, who had given up the lead in the eighth on a sacrifice fly -- the third run charged to Farmer -- picked up the win with two perfect innings of relief.
Farmer, who before the tournament had been named a first-team all-conference member for the second consecutive season, went seven innings and allowed six hits while striking out eight.
Florida State had ended Farmer's shutout bid in the sixth, tying the game at 2-2 on sacrifice flies from Marcus Davis and Jose Brizuela.
Farmer got a strikeout and a groundout to strand a runner at third in the seventh, but his first pitch of the eighth -- Stewart's triple off the top of the right-center field wall that nearly left the park -- turned out to be his last.
"I felt like my performance could've been a lot better. (Florida State is) a very tough team to pitch to, give credit to them, the mistakes I did make ... they made me pay," Farmer said. "I feel like I just battled, gave (the Tech offense) a shot to do what they did. Starting the postseason like this is huge for us."
"Buck pitched great, it would've been a shame if he got the loss," Hall said.
Once Farmer departed, Florida State took its first lead of the game in an unconventional way. Facing Palka, Stephen McGee popped out to second base, Stewart gambled and raced for home and when Tech second baseman Thomas Smith couldn't get anything on the throw, Stewart slid in safely to put the Seminoles up 3-2.
"It just worked out," said Stewart, a freshman who was a home run short of the cycle in his first ACC Tournament game. "(Smith) just kept back pedaling, he didn't have momentum to throw the ball."
After Tech took its first lead with two runs in the fourth, the Yellow Jackets had just two singles in four innings against Seminoles ace Scott Sitz, himself a first-team all-conference member, who pitched seven innings of six-hit ball, and left-hander Billy Strode, who pitched a perfect eighth.
Farmer got into and out of trouble in two of his first four innings. With one out in the first, he hit Stewart with a pitch and allowed a single to Davis, but Tech third baseman Sam Dove made a diving stop on a ground ball and started an inning-ending double play.
That began a stretch in which the Rockdale graduate retired eight consecutive batters before Stewart led off the fourth with a single. Farmer loaded the bases with another single and a four-pitch walk to Brizuela, but again got an inning-ending double play to keep the Seminoles off the scoreboard.
Tech staked Farmer to a 2-0 lead in the fourth. Brandon Thomas, recently a first-team all-ACC honoree, had a stand up triple to start the frame, then scored on a groundout by Palka. The Yellow Jackets added to the cushion later in the inning, getting a two-out RBI single from Hyde.