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Georgia Tech Baseball: Matthew Gorst & Yellow Jackets Salvage Sunday in 2-1 Series Loss at Virginia

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Things looked awfully gloomy heading into Sunday, but a brilliant performance kept Georgia Tech in good position for the postseason.

Junior P Matthew Gorst
Matthew Gorst
Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics

Traveling to Charlottesville, the Jackets faced their fifth consecutive weekend against a top-25 team. With a tenuous hold on the sixth position in the ACC, a series win against the defending national champs would be very helpful as they look towards the ACC Tournament. Conversely, failing to get at least one win would put Tech in danger of missing the tournament altogether. UVA had swept Tech in their home park in 2014, all close games. Tech had won 2 out of 3 in Atlanta last year before losing badly to the Cavaliers in the tournament play-in game to end the Jackets’ season. This year, Virginia was coming off of an unusually long 10 days between games due to finals.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
#19 Georgia Tech (32-17, 11-13) 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 3 7 0
#12 Virginia (32-17, 15-10) 0 0 0 4 1 1 0 0 X 6 11 1

Two aces would face off on the mound, Brandon Gold (6-2, 2.16) vs Connor Jones (9-1, 1.95). The Jackets jumped on Jones in the top of the 1st, when Kel Johnson hit a double deep off the center field wall on the 8th pitch of the at-bat to score Connor Justus and Wade Bailey. It was an early 2-0 Tech lead. The Jackets were 15-2 this year when scoring in the 1st -- a good omen here.

The score held until UVA struck back hard in their 4th. A pair of singles in between a pair of strikeouts put two Cavaliers on, though it looked like Gold might escape. Unfortunately, Adam Haseley hit a deep double off the right field wall to tie the game, and then Charley Cody homered to left two pitches later to give the Cavaliers a 4-2 lead. Meanwhile, Jones seemed to be finding his rhythm on the mound, only allowing one Georgia Tech baserunner in the four innings following Johnson’s RBI double.

The Cavaliers struck for one more in the 5th on a pair of walks and a pair of singles, and another in the 6th on a solo home run. After another pair of singles, Gold’s day was done, and he left the mound very frustrated. Burton Dulaney got out of the inning without further damage, but the deficit had grown to 6-2.

While Jones had only given up 2 hits since the 2-run 1st, the Jackets got one back in their 7th, aided by an error and a balk, when a Justus sacrifice fly made it 6-3. Dulaney pitched well the rest of the way and held the Cavaliers scoreless, but Tech could not score again, losing 6-3 on only 7 hits, with Virginia’s Jones going all the way.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
#19 Georgia Tech (32-18, 11-14) 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 4 6 1
#12 Virginia (33-17, 16-10) 5 0 2 0 0 2 0 0 X 9 17 1

Virginia’s Alec Bettinger (1-4, 5.45) went up against normal mid reliever Ben Parr (7-0, 4.01), sometimes called "the win vulture," as the Jacket coaching staff continued searching for reliable starting pitching. From the numbers, this might have been Tech’s best chance to get to UVA. The game was moved from 4 to 6 due to weather.

Sadly for the Jackets, the infamous "big inning" struck in the 1st, with 5 runs on 5 hits (all singles) and 2 walks. UVA again loaded the bases in the 2nd, but wasn’t able to score. Tech got one back in their 3rd on a Brandt Stallings lead-off home run to make it 5-1. In the bottom of the 3rd, Cole Pitts came in to pitch after Parr gave up another walk and single. His first start in nearly a year had gone poorly and he was in danger of losing his first game of the year. Pitts was no more effective, giving up three straight singles right off the bat. UVA scored two more and again left the bases loaded. It was now 7-1.

Tech got their second hit of the game, a solo home run from Kel Johnson, in the 4th to make it 7-2, but Bettinger was pitching very well. Bobby Gauvreau came in to pitch for the Yellow Jackets in the bottom of the 5th, tossing a scoreless frame before giving up two in the 6th. Tech got one back in their 7th when Tristin English was driven in by a pinch-hitting Grant Wruble. In Tech’s 9th, Matt Gonzalez hit the team’s third solo home run of the game to make it 9-4. Virginia’s Bettinger, who had never gone beyond six innings, would go all the way in this one, giving up only 6 hits for Virginia’s second complete game victory of the weekend.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
#19 Georgia Tech (33-18, 12-14) 0 2 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 5 11 1
#12 Virginia (33-18, 16-11) 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 X 4 8 0

After a pair of losses to open the series, the Jackets found themselves in a tie for the 10th and final tournament spot with Boston College as Sunday’s game began. Jake Lee (3-1, 6.37) started against Adam Haseley (7-2, 1.35), who would start the game after two games in center field.

Virginia scored yet again in their 1st when Ernie Clement tripled and laterscored on a groundout. The Jackets took the lead in the 2nd with two solo home runs from Trevor Craport and Ryan Peurifoy. But, UVA played long ball themselves with a Chris Cody solo in their 2nd and a Matt Thaiss two-run shot in their 3rd. Matt Gorst came in to finish the 3rd, but the Jackets now trailed 4-2.

The Jackets jumped back ahead in the top of the 4th when Craport homered again, before Arden Pabst hit a two-run shot of his own. Virginia went to their bullpen for the first time of the weekend in the 5th, bringing on Tyler Shambora. Tech led 5-4, and had now hit seven home runs in two games – six of them solo. Right Fielder Brandt Stallings made a super catch to prevent a run in the Virginia 5th on a drive by Pavin Smith with a runner on base.

Through six innings, Gorst was pitching very well, but with his pitch count approaching 50 and three innings to go, could the regular closer go much further?

Gorst came back for the Virginia 8th, already over 60 pitches. The Cavaliers put runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs as the Jackets were possibly "[blanked] over" by the umps, sending Coach Hall into orbit. (Virginia got three separate huge breaks on a bunt after a single). Later, with the bases loaded and two out, a critical at bat for Cameron Simmons saw Gorst pop him up for the third out!

Gorst came back for the 9th having thrown 80 pitches, easily his high. After two quick groundouts, he struck out Thaiss for the win!

Bottom Line

No one would call a series loss "good", except perhaps in this case. The Jackets were staring down the barrel of a devastating sweep that would have placed their post season hopes in serious jeopardy. Up stepped Matthew Gorst to take the team on his shoulders and hold a one run lead for 6.1 innings and 90 pitches, aided mightily by Brandt Stallings’ defense in right. It was Gorst’s 1st win of the season and the first in over a year since he beat Virginia on April 11, 2015 in Atlanta. The four home runs (by three guys who had 8 total between them prior to Sunday) accounted for all of Tech’s scoring.

The Jackets (12-14 ACC) are still not guaranteed a tournament spot, but greatly improved their chances. The winner of the upcoming series vs BC (11-14) will determine which of those two teams will make it. Pending UNC at ND on Monday, the Jackets are tied for 8th with ND and lead Duke and BC by ½ game, UNC by 1 game, and Pitt by 2 games. The Jackets trail Clemson and Wake by ½ game and NCS by 1.5 games. A lot will be decided next weekend as several of these teams play each other. The Jackets have a very respectable RPI of 17.

Now to take care of the dwags Tuesday night at Turner Field.