D'Alessio's three-run homer lifts Clemson
OMAHA, Neb. -- When Clemson is trailing in the late innings, watch out.
The top-seeded Tigers pulled out their fourth come-from-behind victory in as many games, this time striking for all their runs in the eighth inning of an 8-4 win over Georgia Tech in the College World Series opener Friday.
Andy D'Alessio's three-run homer gave the Tigers the lead in the biggest late-game CWS comeback in 20 years.
"Your team has to believe, and your team has to have the weapons to be able to do it," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "Our team believes that you're never out of it until the final out. You can always come back."
No team had come back from four or more runs down in the eighth inning to win in the CWS since Arizona rallied from a six-run deficit to beat Maine 8-7 in 1986.
Clemson (53-14) advanced to a Bracket 1 game Sunday against the winner of Friday night's meeting between Cal State Fullerton and North Carolina. Georgia Tech (50-17) plays the loser of that game.
The Tigers beat fellow Atlantic Coast Conference member Georgia Tech for the fourth time in seven meetings this season. It was the second time in a row the Tigers had used a big inning to beat the Yellow Jackets. Clemson scored 10 runs in the ninth inning of a 16-11 victory at the ACC tournament.
Until the eighth Friday, it looked as if things were well in hand for the Yellow Jackets. Tech starter Lee Hyde, who allowed two hits over seven innings, left after giving up a walk and single to start the eighth. Four pitchers followed and a total of 13 Clemson batters went to the plate.
"It was a good game for us for seven innings," Tech coach Danny Hall said. "Hyde pitched magnificent. He couldn't have pitched any better than he did.
"It was a tough inning for us and it certainly was a disappointing loss. Now we'll have to regroup for Sunday."
Georgia Tech was just the latest team to fall victim to "Cardiac Clemson."
The Tigers clinched a regional title by erasing a 5-4 deficit in the seventh inning to beat Mississippi State 8-6.
In super regional against Oral Roberts, Tyler Colvin hit a ninth-inning grand slam for an 11-8 victory, and the next day the Tigers came back from a 4-0 deficit in the eighth to win 6-5.
Hyde had Georgia Tech in total control until the Yellow Jackets' bullpen melted down.
"Obviously, Hyde was throwing a great game. But we were able to wait him out," D'Alessio said. "Coach came up to me in the seventh and told me it was going to come down to me, and I was able to come up with the clutch hit."
Herman Demmink walked and Brad Chalk reached on an infield single to start the eighth, chasing Hyde, who had thrown 103 pitches.
"I wasn't really getting tired," Hyde said, "but I was leaving pitches up."
Reliever Brad Rulon faced just one batter, getting pulled after surrendering a two-run double to Marquez Smith to cut the Yellow Jackets' lead to 4-2.
Ryan Turner (4-4) came on and gave up a single to Colvin. Turner then threw wildly to first on a pickoff attempt, allowing Smith to score from second and Colvin to go to third. Taylor Harbin walked before D'Alessio hit his 23rd homer of the season.
Adrian Casanova and pinch-hitter Ben Hall added RBI singles.
"Our bullpen has been outstanding all year," Hall said. "We just didn't execute the pitches in the eighth. They're a great team, and if you don't execute the pitches, they're going to make you pay. We had a tough time stopping them."
Ryan Hinson (4-0) got the win after relieving Clemson starter Sean Clark. Georgia Tech led 3-0 in the first after Wally Crancer doubled and scored on Matt Wieters' single. Jeff Kindel followed with his 14th home run of the season and third in three games, a two-run shot helped over the center-field wall by a 23 mph wind.
Clark allowed just two hits over the next five innings. He gave up a walk and single to open the seventh before Hinson relieved.
"I kind of settled down and did what I needed to do," Clark said. "Fortunately, it worked out for us. Our team has incredible resiliency."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
MORE COLLEGE SPORTS HEADLINES
- NCAA president calls for 'scholarships for life'
- UNC hopes to set up meeting with McCants
- Survey: Colleges failing on sexual assaults
- Northwestern files brief to NLRB for appeal