The University of Illinois – Chicago Flames came to Atlanta to complete a two season home and home series. Only two games could be played due to weather in Chicago last Spring, and resulted in a low scoring split. UIC came in at 6-2, matching the Jackets. The all time series record favors Tech 9-2.
Regular Friday starter Xzavion Curry took the mound against Junior RHP Reid Birlingmair. Curry beat Birlingmair in game one of last year’s DH, pitching 8 shutout innings. He wouldn’t quite match that today, but came pretty close and got his third win of the season thanks to some timely Jacket hitting. Birlingmair again fell victim for the loss.
Tech took an early lead in the 1st when Tristen English bid to regain his title of “Mr. Doubles” and drove in Wade Bailey. The Jackets did leave two in scoring position though and only led 1-0. Tech tacked on another run in their 3rd on back-to-back leadoff doubles by Bailey and Murray, but failed to get more after Murray was thrown out trying to advance on a passed ball that the catcher handled well. With Curry pitching in dominating fashion, it was 2-0 after three.
The Flames put on a threat in their 4th with two singles, then got runners on the corners with two outs after Murray caught a line drive but threw wide to 2nd trying for a double play. Curry got out of it with a strikeout, his sixth. In the bottom, Carter Hall marked his first start of the year with a three run homer to left, driving in Waddell and Radcliff to make it 5-0. Seeing how fired up he was being mobbed by his teammates afterward was testimony to his eagerness to play.
Birlingmair couldn’t make it through the 5th and was relieved by senior RHP Wyatt Trautwein with two out and a runner on first. Trautwein got out of the inning pitched well the rest of the way but it was too late for the Flames. Curry gave up a couple of leadoff singles to get in trouble in the Flames’ 6th, but survived a long fly out to right field and got the final two outs to preserve his shutout.
Andy Archer relieved for the Jackets to pitch the 7th, Curry having shutout UIC for 14 total innings over two years. Archer gave up a couple of singles but got out of the inning on a timely double play line drive to Bailey that he tossed to Wilhite covering 2nd. The Flames and Jackets were tied at seven hits each, but the score remained 5-0.
Tech failed to pick up an insurance run in their 7th when McCann, Waddell, and Wilhite left English standing at third base. The Jackets then left the bases loaded in the 8th when English just missed a possible grand slam, so it remained 5-0 and Hugh Chapman came in to try and close it out. Chapman had started last Sunday but had a short outing, surely below his expectations. He answered the call today and retired the Flames in order and is the probable starter Wednesday at Georgia State.
High points include Curry’s continuing dominance, multi-hit games by Bailey, English, and Murray, and Carter Hall’s three run blast. The defense made a couple of errors that didn’t hurt, and Tech pitchers only walked two, a welcome change from opening weekend! I’m told the philosophy is either “get ‘em out or give up a hit.” Mostly lately it’s been the former. Tech has shutout three different opponents in three of the last five games, and last gave up a run Saturday to Dartmouth.