The Jackets qualified for 10th seed in the 12 team tournament, being matched with Wake Forest (3rd seed) and Miami (6th seed) in Pool C. The team with the best head to head record in the pool advanced to the semi-finals, but Tech or Miami would need to go 2-0 while WF could advance with a 1-1 record.
Thursday vs. Miami (L, 6-5)
The first game of the tournament at 11 AM Tuesday featured Jake Lee (4-2, 5.51) against freshman right hander Evan McKendry (4-2, 3.24). Chase Murray returned to the lineup, but Joey Bart could not go. Neither team could afford to lose and hope for a NCAA berth.
The second batter in the bottom of the 1st – Michael Burns - drove a ball deep to left center that hit Peurifoy's glove at the same time his arm hit the wall and bounced over to make it 1-0. Bad break indeed! The Jackets answered in the top of the 2nd, when Brandt Stallings got a big two out double to left with McCann and Austin Wilhite on base to make it 2-1 Tech. The Jackets threatened again in the 3rd, with a walk by Bailey and single by Craport. After a double steal, McKendry balked and Bailey walked in to make it 3-1 with one out. After two outs, Poje drove in Craport with a soft grounder up the middle.
Lee got into serious trouble with an infield single, hit batsman and walk after one out in the bottom of the 3rd to load the bases. Jake seemed to lose his control, going 3-0 to the next batter before recovering and coaxing a shallow fly ball for out two. But then he gave up a grand slam to Hunter Tackett on a 1-2 count, turning the whole game around on one disastrous pitch. After a single to the next batter, Lee's day ended and Datoc came in. He gave up a single to right, but fortunately the base runner rounded third base too far and was thrown out Wilhite to Wilhite to Craport to end the inning with Miami leading 5-4.
The Jackets loaded the bases with no outs in the 5th, and Jim Morris went to right handed reliever Frankie Bartow. He struck out Poje, but Austin Wilhite tied it up with a single to right. However, neither Murray nor Stallings could do anything, so it remained 5-5 in the middle of the 5th. The Jackets had missed a big chance. In the bottom of the inning, McCann threw out a steal attempt after a single to end Miami's at-bat.
Datoc struck out the side in the bottom of the 6th, working at a metronomic pace. Another right handed reliever, sidewinder Cooper Hammond, pitched to Tech in the 7th. He got two outs, but with Wilhite on 3rd and Stallings on 2nd, Miami brought in Andrew Cabezas, the team’s best reliever. He walked Nick Wilhite on four pitches to bring up Bailey with the bases loaded. Wade popped up to end the threat, with the 9th through 11th Jackets left on base. In the bottom of the 8th, Datoc eliminated a leadoff single by starting a 1-6-3 double play, but then gave up another single. Jared’s day ended for Zac Ryan with one on and two out. It was his longest outing of the year – five innings. Ryan got out three on a pop-up.
The Jackets went down in order in the top of the 9th. A leadoff walk in the bottom of the inning was quickly bunted to second – the winning run. That runner moved to third with two outs on a groundout to first. Tech intentionally walked the very fast Chester to bring up Burns. Zac struck him out to go to extras.
After Chester retired his 10th straight Jacket in the top of the tenth, Miami got a leadoff single in the bottom. They got another single after two outs, but Zac got out three on a pop-up to right. Chester was again flawless in the 11th, but this time Ryan matched him to go to the 12th. Chester remained perfect through the top of that inning, now having retired 16 straight, but again Ryan matched him pitch for pitch.
In Tech’s 13th, Nick Wilhite drew a one out walk to break a 17 straight effort by Cabezas, but nothing came of it. In the bottom, after Michelangeli was awarded a 3-2 walk, Barr singled him to third base with only one out. Joe Gomez singled in the winning run. A truly heartbreaking loss for the Jackets. Cabezas got the well earned win, Ryan the tough loss.
Friday vs. Wake Forest (L, 5-4)
Fighting weather delays, the ACC moved a couple of games to the University of Louisville stadium. This was the first one, at noon on Thursday. Xzavion Curry (6-4, 5.52) pitched for Tech against John McCarren (5-3, 4.93) in a game the Jackets would be playing for pride – and to avoid the first losing season in decades. Wake Forest needed to beat Miami to advance, so they really had little riding on this game. A format that leads to meaningless games seems flawed somehow...
The home Jackets struck in the bottom of the first when McCann hit his first double of the year to drive Peurifoy in all the way from first base. Tech led 1-0 after one. Curry, meanwhile, went through the Deacon batters in order in the first three innings, striking out five. Tech added to the lead in the bottom of the 3rd when back-to-back two out singles by McCann and Poje drove in Craport.
Curry retired the first eleven batters before a ball scooted through Wilhite's legs at shortstop, ruled an error. Xzavion didn't let it bother him, and he finished that inning and the 5th in order. Wake Forest brought in a reliever in the bottom of the 5th, Morgan McSweeney. Bailey led off with a double, but was caught trying to steal third. That hurt, since Peurifoy's deep fly ball would have easily scored him had he been on third.
Curry issued his first walk in eleven innings after one out in the 6th, and that runner scored on a two out double, Wake’s first base hit. It was 2-1 in the middle of the sixth.
I missed the rest of the game from this point, and when I learned what happened I was glad I did. Suffice it to say that Tech went into the 9th leading 4-1, but lost 5-4 when Wake scored four runs aided by an error. Micah Carpenter got the loss. The game seems representative of the Jackets’ season somehow: with Tech outhitting Wake 13-6; with the late lead lost; the winning run left on base to end the game; and Curry’s excellent pitching effort wasted. The last three games of the year were all lost on the opponent’s last at-bat.
Tech’s season ends on a low note, with Coach Hall’s first losing season at 27-28, and with no NCAA bid for the fourth time in Danny Hall’s career, but the second in three years. Injuries were horrendous, but you have to overcome them. The 2017 Jackets, despite numerous great individual performances, failed to overcome. Now, the seniors leave for whatever life brings, the senior and juniors who get drafted negotiate and decide, and the healthy freshmen and sophomores take a break and then move on to summer leagues. Those who have been injured continue their rehab and get ready for the next season. A point to remember is that the pitchers who made every start plan to return for 2018. See you later.