NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Georgia Tech rallied from a run down in the ninth, scoring four times as the Yellow Jackets stayed alive in the Nashville Regional with a 6-3 win over Illinois Sunday afternoon. Junior first-team All-ACC catcher and Golden Spikes Award semifinalist Zane Evans had three hits, two RBI and got the win with three innings of relief.
The victory moved the Jackets to 2-1 in the regional and into a championship match-up with Vanderbilt tonight at 8 p.m. ET at the Commodores' Hawkins Field. The Illini (35-20) were eliminated as second-seeded Tech (36-26) advanced to the championship bracket for the ninth consecutive time in NCAA regional play.
The Jackets must beat Vanderbilt twice over the next two nights in order to advance to next week's Super Regional round.
Evans finished 3-for-5, with a double and two RBI, while Daniel Palka had three hits and scored. Kyle Wren and Thomas Smith each had two of Tech's 14 hits. Matt Gonzalez, who came off the bench to replace injured third-baseman Sam Dove (hamstring) in the sixth inning, was 1-for-2 and scored twice.
With the game tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Illinois' Jordan Parr lifted a fly ball off Evans to right center that both Brandon Thomas and Palka pursued. The pair collided in the right-field gap and the ball rolled to the wall with Parr streaking around the bases.
He scored easily for a go-ahead inside-the-park home run to give the Illini the lead again, after the third-seed scored the game's first two runs to seize a 2-0 lead in the third. Evans, rattled by the turn of events, allowed a walk to Brandon Hohl and a single with no outs to David Kerian after the homer. But the Tech's two-way standout got three outs in order - a strikeout of Reid Roper, a fly ball to center from Davis Hendrickson and an infield pop-up from Jason Goldstein to end it.
Taking the one-run deficit to the ninth, Thomas Smith got the comeback started when he ripped a lead-off single into center. Mitch Earnest advanced him with a grounder in the next at bat, and Kyle Wren scored Thomas for the tie when he smoked a single through the right side.
Tech kept its foot on the gas as Gonzalez followed with an RBI double to the right-field gap that scored Wren for the lead. Palka was intentionally walked, and Evans came through with an RBI into right that padded the lead and Thomas' sac fly to left scored Spingola, who pinch-ran for Palka, for a 6-3 lead.
Evans finished off Illinois in the ninth to slam the door on Tech's fourth ninth-inning win since May 10. Three times in that span, Tech has won when behind going to the ninth (May 12 vs. North Carolina, May 22 vs. Florida State and today).
Evans improved to 2-2 thanks to three innings of relief, allowing three hits and a run with two strikeouts.
Freshman lefty Jonathan King gave the Jackets a solid start facing elimination, and turned a 2-2 game over to Evans after the sixth. Tech took the southpaw off the hook after scoring twice in the sixth to tie the game at 2-2 thanks to Evans' RBI double and the game-tying RBI double off the Green Monster from A.J. Murray.
King worked six innings, scattering seven hits and two runs with one walk and four strikeouts.
Illinois starter Ryan Castellanos worked 5.1 innings, allowing eight hits and two runs, while reliever Drasen Johnson pitched 2.1 shutout innings with two hits. The Illini turned to closer Bryan Roberts, who got the final out of the eighth, before being touched up with Tech's ninth-inning comeback and absorbing the loss (3-4).
Before Sunday, Illinois was a perfect 29-0 when leading after the eighth inning, thanks in part to Roberts' eight saves.