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Baseball: With strong offense & inconsistent pitching, Georgia Tech splits road series vs. ACC foe Pittsburgh

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After another Friday win, pitching struggles were again the Jackets' undoing in the series finale.

Georgia Tech Baseball Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics

The Yellow Jackets 22-7 (6-6) headed to Pittsburgh this weekend to face the 13-12 (5-7) Panthers fresh off of a satisfying week featuring wins over in-state foes Mercer and Kennesaw State. Georgia Tech looked to get back to a positive ACC record after a disappointing series loss to Duke at home the prior weekend. Also on the Juniors’ and Seniors’ minds was being victims of a 2014 sweep in terrible Pittsburgh weather. Weather was an issue again on this trip, even on Thursday, with the Friday game being moved up to 3 PM and the Saturday forecast looking bad.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
#24 Georgia Tech (23-7, 7-6) 0 4 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 6 10 0
Pittsburgh (13-13, 5-8) 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 0 3 8 1

Friday’s game began in cloudy 40-degree weather. Righty Aaron Sandefur was on the mound for the Panthers and Matt Gonzalez returned to the Tech lineup after a week off under the concussion protocol. On the mound for the Jackets was Brandon Gold, the Jackets’ normal Friday starter.

The Jackets struck first in the 2nd inning on a Tristin English single, Trevor Craport double, and a Ryan Peurifoy RBI sac fly. An error then put Arden Pabst on first and moved Craport to third, before a Wade Bailey bunt led to an ill-advised glove flip by pitcher Sandefur that sailed over the catcher’s head, scoring Craport and allowing Peurifoy and Bailey to advance. A Justus triple easily scored those two and the Jackets led 4-0 after the 2nd inning.

Having Gonzo back payed off big-time in the 4th, when he tracked down a two-out double in the corner and threw a strike to Craport, whose perfect relay cut down the Pittsburgh runner trying to score from first. (It managed to get Pittsburgh's coach ejected too!) Gonzalez then led off the top of the 5th with a double, advanced to third on a long Kel Johnson sac fly, and scored on an English single to make it 5-0. Only some sparkling catches by Pitt outfielders and recovering from another error to throw out Joey Bart at the plate kept it from being any worse for the Panthers in the 5th.

Gonzo struck again in the 7th, driving a solo HR over the center field wall to give the good guys a 6-0 lead. Tristin "Doubles Machine" English added to his team lead-tying 12 doubles in the 7th, but was stranded to end the inning. Brandon Gold was rolling along on the mound, working around an occasional hit or walk, until some two-out trouble in the 7th, when a Panther double and HR made it 6-2. Micah Carpenter came in to work the 8th for Tech, gaining two quick outs before more two-out trouble when a walk and a RBI double made it 6-3, adding unwelcome drama to the game. With runners on the corners after another walk, the Panthers had the tying run at the plate. Danny Hall quickly brought in closer Matthew Gorst, who dealt a strikeout to end the threat. The ninth brought some more drama in the form of a leadoff single, but a nation-leading 44th double play (4-6-3) followed by a game-ending strike out gave the Jackets a 6-3 win in the series opener and Gorst his 8th save. Matt Gonzalez and Brandon Gold (4-1) are my players of the game.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
#24 Georgia Tech (23-8, 7-7) 0 0 0 4 1 1 0 0 0 6 14 1
Pittsburgh (14-13, 6-8) 1 4 0 6 0 0 2 0 X 13 12 2

The Saturday game was cancelled due to a forecast of snow, resulting in a two-game series (and a 29-game ACC season for GT). Sunday’s game began in freezing temps with Pittsburgh’s 6’7" T. J. Zeuch going against Georgia Tech’s Zac Ryan. Ryan pitched an effective relief inning midweek but had been driven out of the game early by Duke last weekend. Which Ryan would we see?

Sadly, we saw the Ryan who is not as effective, as Pitt scored once in the 1st on a walk, bunt, passed ball, and bunt. They added 4 in the 2nd for a commanding 5-0 lead. Ryan did finally work a scoreless third.

Tech trailed 5-0 going into the 4th, but managed to come nearly all the way back on a Justus single, walks to Johnson and Bart, and a bases-clearing double from "doubles machine" Tristin English. Craport then drove in English with a single and the Panthers' lead had been cut to 5-4.

Unfortunately, Pittsburgh immediately answered off of reliever Burton Dulaney, regaining the five-run lead with only one out, including a big 2 run HR. Coach Hall then changed pitchers to Tanner Shelton, hoping for some damage control. Unfortunately, Shelton disappointed by issuing two immediate walks. Jake Lee then came in and gave up a bunt single, then another single, and all of a sudden Georgia Tech trailed 11-4. All the Jackets’ momentum had been stomped upon and hard before Tech’s 45th double play of the season ended the carnage. Pitching woes had again bitten the Jackets.

In the 5th, Tech crept back on a Gonzalez double that led to him scoring on a Bart grounder. But the Jackets left two runners stranded, and it was still 11-5 headed to the bottom of the inning. Lee returned for the 5th and worked around a two-out Gonzalez error to keep the Jackets barely alive.

Ryan Peurifoy – who has resurrected his season since coming in for a briefly-injured Matt Gonzalez – led off the 6th with a solid double to left. Peurifoy then advanced to third on a Pabst sac fly, and scored on a Bailey single. A Justus single with a bobble by the right fielder moved Bailey to third, still with one out. A double play by the Panthers ended the Tech rally, with the Jackets still trailing 11-6.

Lee worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the 6th, and Tech made some brief noise in the 7th with a Brandt Stallings pinch-hit double, before a Craport single moved him to third. Unfortunately the scoring threat was snuffed out by Pittsburgh, as the Jackets again stranded two with time running out. Pitt tried to removed all doubt with back-to-back singles and an RBI double to lead off their 7th. An intentional walk led to a bases loaded chance for Kowalczyk. A wild pitch made it 13-6 before the inning ended on a pair of strike outs. That did it for the scoring. Even out-hitting the Panthers 14-12 didn’t overcome the 7 walks and timely Panther hitting. Tristin English with two hits and three RBI is my player of the game.

So, once again the Yellow Jackets couldn’t find pitching beyond Brandon Gold and saw a promising Friday win stand alone. I think the shortened weekend series probably helped Tech, sad to say. The first half of the ACC season ends with Georgia Tech 7-7, firmly in the middle of 14 team conference in 7th place. With very good NC State coming to town next weekend, followed by a trip to tough Clemson, the next two weekends will really stress the Jackets’ pitching.

But first, there’s a little matter of uga coming to town on Tuesday. The 365th edition of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate begins at Russ Chandler Stadium at 6:00pm! Get out to the game and support the Jackets!