Jackets send struggling Eagles home

By The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — Jed Bradley did exactly what Georgia Tech needed from its best pitcher.

Bradley pitched into the eighth inning — and Brandon Thomas and Daniel Palka homered in a five-run second inning — as Georgia Tech beat Southern Mississippi 6-2 Saturday in the Atlanta Regional.

“It was very critical,” Yellow Jackets coach Danny Hall said of Bradley’s pitching performance, “because we saved our bullpen.”

Expected to be a first-round pick in next week’s major league draft, Bradley (7-3) allowed eight hits and two runs with one walk and four strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings for Georgia Tech (41-20).

Southern Miss (39-19) ended the season having scored only two runs in its final 34 innings. The Golden Eagles played the last two weekends with their second and third starting pitchers, Geoffrey Thomas and Jonathon Thompson, suspended for academic reasons.

“Our off-the-field problems at the end of the year kind of disrupted some things, but we will not use that as an excuse,” Southern Miss coach Scott Berry said. “We had to make our own road from there.”

Palka’s 11th homer, Sam Dove’s RBI single and Brandon Thomas’ third homer, a three-run shot, made it 5-0 in the second.

Josh Thomason (2-3) gave up four hits, four runs and struck out one in 1 1/3 innings for Southern Miss.

The Golden Eagles’ streak of consecutive scoreless innings ended at 32 on B.A. Vollmuth’s RBI groundout in the eighth.

Ashley Graeter followed with an RBI sacrifice fly. After Marc Bourgeois singled, Hall brought in reliever Clay Dalton to get the third out.

“We had a great run and a great season,” said Bourgeois, who struck out to end the sixth with runners on first and third. “It’s disappointing to end this way after being conference champions. We definitely had some good moments, though.”

Bradley, who’s expected to get drafted in the middle of the first round, worked out of a jam in the seventh when Mark Ellis grounded into a double play and Chase Fowler grounded out.

“For Jed to go 7.2 and just to have to use one (reliever),” Hall said, “that gives us a great chance to have some arms to go at it tomorrow and hopefully the next day.”

A 6-foot-4, 224-pound junior left-hander, Bradley said the Yellow Jackets spent no time discussing their second-place finish to Southern Miss in the 2009 Atlanta Regional.

“No, we still all remember that, us old guys,” Bradley said. “As far as this year, the past doesn’t matter. All that matters is the present. Just go out there and make pitches and play the game to come out with a win.”

Palka, Thomas, Jacob Esch and Jake Davies each had two hits for Georgia Tech. In the third, Matt Skole walked, advanced to second and third on one wild pitch and scored on Esch’s RBI single to put the Jackets up 6-0.

Georgia Tech stranded six baserunners, four less than it did in Friday’s 2-1 loss to Mississippi State. The Jackets must beat Mississippi State and Austin Peay on Sunday to earn a spot in the regional title game on Monday.

“I said before the game that hitting was contagious and not hitting was contagious also,” Hall said. “It seemed like today when we had guys in scoring position, we were more aggressive, more relaxed and able to get those hits to score runs.”

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.