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Jackets complete 6-run comeback, take game one from Pittsburgh

Cardiac Jackets strike again.

Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics

Tech wins 12-7 after trailing 6-0.

Pittsburgh (20-23, 7-20) came in with the worst record in the ACC, although they had beaten UNC 2 games to 1 last weekend, helping Tech in the standings. Losing to them might seriously dent Tech’s National Seed chances, and it nearly happened. Amos Willingham (6-2, 4.99) went against redshirt junior Derek West (3-2, 3.11) Thursday night, but neither figured in the decision. Tristin English was out for reported flu, with Michael Guldberg at first and Chase Murray at DH.

Waddell led off the bottom of the first with a double, but West struck out Guldberg, McCann, and Radcliff to strand him. It didn’t take Pitt long to capitalize on the momentum, with Popa driving a ball over the wall in deepest center field to lead 1-0. They weren’t nearly done, and a hit batsman, double, and two singles scored three more. Amos got rattled, and a couple of walks brought Popa up again with the bases loaded. He doubled in two more on a 1-2 count, then Willingham hit another batter to load them again, but finally a force out at second ended the nightmare inning with Tech down 6-0. To make it worse, West pitched a shutout inning in the bottom of the second, though it took him 24 pitches – that would be important later.

Willingham worked around a two out double – Pitt’s third – to keep it 6-0 in the mid-third inning. Waddell notched his second double in the third with one out, and Guldberg walked, bringing McCann up. He struck Kyle out for the second time, but not Radcliff, who blasted one to right center making it 6-3.

After a scoreless 4th, Pitt’s Yanni hit a homerun to lead off, making it 7-3. Guldberg was hit to start Tech’s 5th; then an weird replay of the third occurred with McCann striking out and Radcliff going deep – into the cypress trees this time – to make it 7-5. Next, Hall doubled and Murray tripled him in. Then Austin Wilhite’s sacrificed Hall in to tie the game at seven – with West done. Junior righty Chris Gomez came in to close the inning.

Off the hook for any decision, Willingham was relieved by Luke Bartnicki for the 6th.

In the bottom of the 7th, after Bartnicki had worked around a leadoff error in the top, McCann came up with three K’s on his scoresheet. He put a 2-2 pitch over the cypress trees in right center to give the Jackets their first lead. After Gomez walked Radcliff, he was relieved by freshman lefty Mason Ronan. Two wild pitches with a stolen base in between scored Radcliff to make it 9-7, with Hall on after walking. Murray laid down a perfect bunt for a single, putting runners on the corners still with no outs as Pitt brought in senior righty William Kirwan. He got Austin Wilhite to hit into a potential double play, but Pitt threw the back end away, scoring Murray and putting Austin on 2nd, from where he scored on Webb’s single, making it 11-7.

Bartnicki walked the leadoff batter in the 8th, but then got two fly ball outs before Jonathan Hughes relieved him and ended the inning with a groundout. After one out in Tech’s eighth, Pitt brought in junior lefty David Moore to face McCann and Radcliff. He walked McCann, struck out Radcliff, and Colin Hall made it a 4-4 night with a single to left that Pitt misplayed into three bases, scoring McCann for the 12th and final run.

Hughes closed out the game despite a couple of singles, as the Jackets won 12-7 and improved to 37-15 (18-10) while Pitt fell to 20-33 (7-21). Bartnicki got the win, Gomez the loss. Willingham deserves credit for hanging tough for three innings after the second inning disaster, saving the bullpen. Both Miami and UNC won, so the Jackets’ lead holds at one game with two to play.