Taking the weekend off from conference play, the Jackets faced a series they really need to sweep, since Radford has a very low RPI (229). The Highlanders (20-23) from the Big South could hurt the Jackets’ post season chances badly by winning one or more games. They were on a modest win streak, having swept PC last weekend and had won the only previous meeting in February 2014. A stat that stands out is that the Highlanders love to steal bases, and came in 66/96, more than twice as many attempts and successes as Tech. But, they probably haven’t faced many Joey Bart types behind the plate.
Xzavion Curry (7-2, 3.46), fresh off his ACC Pitcher of the Week outing over Wake Forest, faced redshirt senior RHP Austin Ross (7-2, 3.42). Neither figured in the decision as the Jackets came back from seeming defeat to win a thriller 6-5.
The Highlanders started the game off with a bang as Luke Wise led off with a solo homer to right. Xzavion then struck out the next three, but Tech trailed 1-0. It was still the same score in the bottom of the 4th when Murray and English led off with singles before Austin Wilhite doubled in Murray to tie it. But the Jackets then stranded runners at 2nd and 3rd, missing a chance to take the lead. Radford still only had one hit, the homerun.
The tie didn’t last a single out as Straton Podaras led off the 5th with a towering fly that hit the top of the left field wall above a leaping Murray and the lead was back to one run. They weren’t done, as a bunt single and two out triple to right by Wise made it 3-1. Wise’s ball just missed being his second homer. Redshirt senior LHP Mack Krupp came in for Radford, relieving Ross before he could earn a possible win.
Wade Bailey manufactured a run in Tech’s 5th when he aggressively stretched a hit into a double to lead off, stole third, and walked in on Bart’s deep fly. Then with two outs, Chase Murray doubled and scored on an RBI single by English to tie it at three.
It was still tied in the top of the 8th when Andy Archer relieved Curry. Tech had outhit Radford 11 to 4, but not as productively.
A couple of ground ball singles, an error on McCann, three stolen bases and a perfect squeeze bunt gave Radford a 5-3 lead in the middle of the 8th. The final out prevented the sixth run when Tech perfectly handled a double steal from 1st and 3rd to get the runner at home. Another redshirt senior, lefty Kyle Palmer, pitched to Tech in the 8th. The Jackets got two on when Colin Hall and pinch hitter Jamie Taylor singled after Austin Wilhite hit a screaming liner into the pitcher’s glove. Jonathan Hughes came in to run for Taylor and was thrown out trying to take 2nd on a short passed ball. His total inexperience on the bases hurt and it was still 5-3 after eight.
The bottom of the 9th started out in a bleak fashion, with sluggers Bart and McCann going down swinging. Chase Murray then got a two out single for his third hit and Tristin English hit a grounder to short stop that was booted. Tech had a chance with Serratos at the plate, and even more so after a passed ball moved both runners up. Oscar came through in the clutch with a single to right and after English chugged home just before the throw it was tied at five, but the Jackets weren’t through. Oscar stole second, which proved crucial when Austin Wilhite hit a high fly to right that got over the outfielder’s head and bounced over for a ground rule double. Serratos couldn’t have scored from first, but did from second with the walk-off run. The first walk-off win for Tech in a year was also the first late innings come from behind win of the season.
Archer got the win and Palmer the loss as Tech improved to 25-20 and Radford fell to 20-24. A loss would have been very damaging, so Tech lives on.