UIC set out to salvage a win Sunday by sending sophomore RHP Jacob Key against Tech’s Connor Thomas. Thomas has pitched in stellar fashion in wins over Georgia Southern and Arkansas – Pine Bluff on Tuesdays. The latter outing was cut short after 51 pitches through five innings to allow Thomas’ availability and he brought a 2-0 record with a save and a 0.56 ERA. Both teams had well rested bullpens available.
The Flames put together 13 singles and some strong pitching and defense in which they turned four double plays. Combined with some shaky Tech defense and a tight strike zone that hurt Tech more than the Flames, it was enough for them.
After the teams traded double plays in the first inning, Tech jumped ahead on Austin Wilhite’s one out single with the bases loaded. Kel Johnson and Chase Murray, who had doubled, both scored to make it 2-0 before the Flames got an easy double play ball from Bailey to the 2nd baseman. UIC answered in their 3rd with back to back singles and a sacrifice fly by Lin-Peistrup. Next, a walk and a single tied it, still with only one out and runners on the corners for hot hitting Scott Ota. Thomas struck out Ota and Dee to get out of trouble. But, he had already exceeded his five inning pitch total from Tuesday and was relieved by Jonathan Hughes for the fourth.
The fourth took a disastrous turn when a two out sharp grounder to third was thrown low to first by Luke Waddell and got away from English, letting two runners score. Then leadoff batter Norton singled to drive in the third run of the inning and the Flames led 5-2. Hughes was relieved by Jake Lee with two outs in the fifth after he gave up a single and walk and Jake got a strikeout to keep it 5-2 Flames.
Tech scored in their fifth in drastically different ways. First, Wade Bailey manufactured a run by beating out an infield single, going all the way to third on a pickoff throw error by the pitcher, and scoring on Murray’s shallow fly ball out to left field. Next up, Joey Bart hit a homerun over the right center wall that just cleared. Tech trailed 5-4 after five as RHP Charlie Cherny came in to pitch for UIC. He retired the next six Jackets in order, preserving the lead.
After the Flames led off the eighth with two singles, Jared Datoc relieved Jake Lee. After a bunt moved the runners, an intentional walk followed by an unintentional walk plated the Flames’ sixth run. The umpire had a very tight zone, making the strategy a risky one. Jared then got a strikeout for out two and Oscar Serratos came in to try and limit the damage. He got out three on a liner to center and Tech trailed by only two after eight, but the Flames really blew it open in their ninth with numerous singles, two hit batsmen, another error by Waddell, batting around and scoring six. Micah Carpenter replaced Serratos during the carnage, but neither was very effective and it was 12-4 going into Tech’s last at-bat.
The Flames brought in their closer, pre-season All-American Alex Padilla. He was not really effective, but the Jackets’s brief ray of hope was snuffed out by the right fielder making a fine diving catch on a sinking liner by Carter Hall, doubling off Waddell, who had singled and unwisely run on the near-hit. Baron Radcliff’s first homerun to right followed, and Tech was able to load the bases for Joey Bart, but it was way too little and the final was 12-5, even though Tech matched the Flames with 13 hits.
Key got the win and Hughes the hard luck loss, as Tech fell to 8-3 ahead of five games on the road, starting Wednesday at Georgia State.