One of the two best teams – along with Clemson – Tech will face all year came to Atlanta for a Thursday through Saturday series. The games would be the 10th, 11th, and 12th vs ranked opponents for the Jackets. The Cardinals swept the Jackets in dominating fashion last season in Louisville and hope to return to the CWS in 2017 for the first time since 2014. They came in 28-4 and 12-3 ACC and are ranked #2.
Thursday: #2 Louisville 3, Georgia Tech 0
Ben Schneiderjans (1-2, 5.31 ERA) started for the Jackets against probable first round draft pick Brendon McKay (4-2, 1.40 ERA), a left handed junior.
The 1st started out with an error on Austin Wilhite allowing the leadoff runner to first, but he was caught stealing. Then, after a single put runners on the corners, Coleman Poje caught a fly for out two and threw out the runner trying to score.
In the top of the 3rd, Louisville scored twice on four singles, and error, and a wild pitch. With the bases loaded, what appeared to be a grand slam was caught by Poje high on the right field wall, keeping the score 2-0. In the bottom of the inning, the Jackets moved Wilhite to 3rd base, but couldn't get him home.
Jake Lee relieved Schneiderjans for the Cardinal 4th and survived having runners on second and third when Craport charged a soft grounder and threw to first in time for out three. In the Jacket 4th, they finally got a hit when Poje singled, but nothing came of it. Louisville added a third run in their 5th by leading off with three singles, although the middle one – McKay – was thrown out trying to stretch it.
Both teams went down 1-2-3 in the 6th. The Jackets were at least hitting the ball fairly well, but they were all caught by outfielders, including Peurifoy’s possible home run to center. Tech would finish with only one hit and two walks off McKay, who looked really good.
The situation was unchanged when McKay was relieved by Lincoln Henzman for the Jackets’ last chance, and he walked Bailey before Bart hit into a double play to end the game. Tech lost 3-0, McKay got the win, Schneiderjans the loss, Henzman the save. Tech had actually played well enough to win many of the games they have recently lost, Poje in particular defensively preventing 4-5 runs, and Jake Lee was excellent in relief.
Friday: #2 Louisville 10, Georgia Tech 1
Xzavion Curry (3-3, 5.49 ERA) faced right handed junior Kade McClure (3-1, 3.30 ERA).
The Jackets finally got a clutch hit in their 2nd from Ryan Peurifoy, who drove in Kel Johnson from 3rd for a 1-0 lead. Kel got to 3rd on a single, balk, and bunt from Murray. After Curry got through three innings easily, things took an ugly turn in the Cardinal 4th when the first two batters singled and next Bailey made two errors on a grounder turning a likely double play into no outs and a run to tie it. After an out, Lyman doubled in two runs. Curry deserved better, but got worse, as Craport mishandled two consecutive grounders (the second was ruled a hit) to load the bases. Curry got out two himself on a pop up before walking in the 4th run. There were three errors on the two experienced junior infielders, but two of the runs were considered earned because a double play may not be assumed.
Things were no better in the Cardinal fifth, with four singles and a questionable walk scoring three before Jared Datoc relieved a badly supported Xzavion Curry with two out and two on. Datoc got a ground ball that hit the base runner for out three, although the two nearest umpires seemed oblivious until the home plate umpire called it. Louisville lead 7-1.
Robert Winborne came in to pitch the 6th for Tech and gave up a solo home run before Micah Carpenter relieved him. In the 7th, Garrett Gooden pitched and gave up two runs on two hits and two walks to make it 10-1. Adam Elliott relieved for the Cardinals in the Tech 7th. McClure had only given up one run on four hits.
Jonathan King came in to pitch to the Cardinals in the 8th and got three outs on ten pitches, perhaps a hopeful sign for the redshirt senior. After the Jackets stranded two in the 8th, Burton Dulaney pitched in the 9th and retired the Cardinals to bring up the Jackets for their final chance, against Riley Thompson on the mound. The game ended 10-1, with McClure getting the win, Curry the hard luck loss. Although, considering what happened after the disastrous 4th inning, it’s unlikely Tech would have won anyway.
Saturday: #2 Louisville 5, Georgia Tech 4
Two freshman pitchers faced off with Jay Shadday (2-2, 3.10 ERA) pitching against left hander Nick Bennett (3-0, 1.77 ERA) as Tech tried to break a six game losing streak and get back to a .500 record.
In the top of the 2nd, a walk and home run by Ellis made it 2-0 early. The walk seemed to have led Jay to groove the ball too much.
Tech got one in their 3rd when Wilhite and Curry singled and were moved over by Xzavion Curry bunting. Ryan Peurifoy then drove in Wilhite with his second RBI of the series. But, Craport and Bailey stranded runners on the corners to keep it 2-1. In the Jackets’ 4th, Poje and Johnson singled and Wilhite walked to load the bases with one out. Murray sent a shallow liner to right that was caught. Poje came home and was safe on a poor throw. Next, Curry got his first hit and first RBI to score Johnson from 2nd on a close play at home from the same right fielder. Tech led 3-2 and had outhit the Cardinals 6-1.
After Jay got through the 5th, hurt by an error but helped by a strike out/throw out double play, Sam Bordner came in to pitch for Louisville. In the Cardinal 6th, with one on and two outs, Shadday was relieved by Datoc to face Ellis, who had hit the home run off Jay in the 2nd. Jared walked Ellis, but got a ground ball out to preserve the slim lead. In the Cardinal 7th, Jared benefited from Tech’s second strike out/throw out double play on the same Cardinal players after he issued a walk.
Tech had a threat in their 7th with two on and one out, but relief pitcher Adam Wolf came in and got Bart and Poje. Zac Ryan came in for Tech in the 8th. After he retired the Cardinals, he got some insurance when Curry singled in Wilhite in the 9th after Wilhite had singled. But ominously, the Jackets left base runners on 2nd and 3rd.
Ryan came back for the 9th and things went bad quickly with a lead off home run by McKay, followed by a walk, hit batsman, and bunt that Ryan fielded and threw to third base far too late to get the runner. A ground ball out and fly ball out both scored runs to give Louisville a 5-4 lead before Ryan could get out three. They had scored three runs on one hit in the 9th after scoring two runs on one hit in the 2nd. Words fail me here.
Lincoln Henzman came in to pitch to Tech in the 9th. Bailey reached on an error with one out, but Bart and Poje, either of whom could have won the game on one pitch, made the final outs in the loss. Wolf got the win, Ryan the loss, Henzman the save, and Shadday got nothing. Tech outhit Louisville 11-3, if you can believe it. Jacket pitchers walked five, two of them scored, as did the one batter that was hit by a pitch.
The current Jackets remind me of the 2016 basketball team – they go into the latter stages of games dreading some inevitable disaster. So, the fears become self-fulfilling. Tech has not had a big rally or home run in the 7 game losing streak. They are now 16-18 (4-14 in ACC play) and probably playing for experience and pride from here on. Curry’s offensive prowess (.667 BA with 2 RBI and a sacrifice bunt in one game) and effective pitching from the likes of Shadday and Lee are among hopeful signs. Hosting Mercer, at Georgia State and at VPI are coming up. A series win in Blacksburg is needed for any chance at making the tournament.