After losing their match-up Friday, the Yellow Jackets once again faced the Connecticut Huskies at noon Sunday, this time in an elimination game. UConn had battled Florida hard Saturday evening, tying the game at 5 before losing 6-5. Tech was theoretically more rested, having finished off Bethune-Cookman Saturday mid-afternoon 12-3.
Game 3 - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets @ Connecticut Huskies
For starting pitchers, the Huskies went with William Montgomerie (6-3, 2.57) against Ben Parr (7-1, 4.23) for the Yellow Jackets. Joey Bart started at catcher to give Arden Pabst a break.
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The visiting Jackets batted first, and Matt Gonzalez became the third Jacket ever to reach 300 career hits with a two-out single. In the Jackets’ 2nd, a scoring chance was lost when Trevor Craport tried to score from second on a Kel Johnson single, but was thrown out at home for the first out. Johnson was immediately picked off first and a promising inning was squandered. TV showed Kel looking away just as the pickoff move was made. Fortunately, Parr was pitching well and the Huskies were unable to carry any momentum into their half of the 2nd.
Tech led off their 4th with a Wade Bailey double and Gonzalez’s 301st hit – a bunt single – moved him to 3rd. Bailey scored on a Tristin English sacrifice fly to make it 1-0. Craport was hit by a pitch, and then Johnson drove in Gonzo with his second hit of the day – doubling his postseason total. Unfortunately, Craport was caught on the base paths again when Tristin English hit a grounder. Joey Bart then drove in Johnson and English with his first career home run, a three-run shot over a leaping left fielder to make it 5-0!
UConn got their first base runners – and run - in the 4th with an infield single, walk, and RBI double that Peurifoy nearly tracked down. The damage was contained, however, with the Huskies stranding base runners on 2nd and 3rd and the score 5-1. The Huskies brought in C. J. Dandeneau to pitch the Jackets’ 5th. Gonzalez, who homered off of Dandeneau Friday, singled with one out for a three-hit day. He was eventually stranded at 3rd.
Walks reared their ugly heads against Tech in the bottom of the 5th, with back-to-back being issued with one out, followed by a single to load the bases. Gorst was seen running to the bullpen as a balk scored a run, but a great play by Craport coming home on a grounder got another runner trying to score. A fly out ended the inning with the score still 5-2.
Burton Dulaney came into to pitch in the 6th. Parr had bent without breaking, giving the Jackets a chance with 5 innings on 80 pitches. Unfortunately, Dulaney issued a leadoff walk, followed by a single to put runners on the corners. Coach Hall decided that it would be foolish to be eliminated with Matthew Gorst in the bullpen, and brought him in to face the crisis. A grounder to Craport scored the runner from 3rd on a close play, but the Jackets got the other base runner at 3rd. It was 5-3, and a wild pitch moved the runner from 1st all the way to 3rd, the lead in serious trouble. A grounder up the middle made it 5-4 before a fly ball to center field ended the inning.
Devin Over came in for UConn for the 7th, and got the Jackets in order. The momentum of the game had completely reversed with nine outs yet to get. ESPN3 had let me down by this point, so I depended on always reliable Wiley and Nick on WREK. Gorst got the Huskies in order in the 7th and the Jackets knocked out Over in their 8th with an English single and Craport sac bunt. The Huskies brought in Patrick Ruotolo, their closer. He got Johnson and Bart around an infield single from Stallings, stranding English at 3rd, the offense giving Gorst no leeway.
The Huskies put a runner on 2nd with a single and sac bunt in their 8th. A double that fell one foot inside the right field line tied the game with the potential go ahead run at 2nd. It was only the 3rd earned run against Gorst all year as he neared 50 innings, and he coaxed a pop foul and strikeout to preserve the tie going into the 9th.
Luck smiled on Tech in the 9th, as Peurifoy doubled on a flair that the shortstop made a diving effort to catch. Then, as Justus tried to bunt him to 3rd, UConn pitcher Ruotolo threw the ball away, scoring Peurifoy and moving Justus to 2nd. Bailey sac bunted him to 3rd, and the Huskies intentionally walked Gonzalez to bring up English, who singled in the run, showing off his 1st team All-ACC status. The Jackets could get no more, but had given Gorst had a 2 run lead to work with. Three quick fly outs in the bottom of the 9th sealed the win!
The Jackets remained alive in the Tournament with the win, but were due to face the #1 overall seed Florida Gators later in the evening. Georgia Tech would need a win on Sunday evening and again in a rematch on Monday in order to advance to the Super Regional next weekend.
Game 4 - Florida Gators @ Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
RS Senior Cole Pitts (3-3, 6.63) started for Tech versus Alex Faedo (12-1, 3.49), UF’s Sunday starter.
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The Gators batted first and struck first for a run after two outs, before Faedo retired the Jackets in order in the bottom of the 1st. Both pitchers got through the next three innings, Faedo pitching a no hitter, marred only by a walk. The Gators struck again in their 5th after a leadoff double led to a run later in the inning on an infield single. Pitts yielded the mound to Keyton Gibson after 4.2 innings of solid pitching; the WREK announcers called it his best outing since his surgery. Gibson quickly gave up back-to-back RBI doubles to make it 4-0, all the runs thus far coming with two outs.
Kel Johnson got the Jackets' first hit with one out in the bottom of the 5th, but Faedo struck out Stallings and Peurifoy, having made it through five innings on only 60 pitches. In the 6th, Gibson got himself in trouble with a leadoff walk who moved around to 3rd on a bad pickoff. He then walked the next batter and gave up an RBI single to end his day after only 1/3 inning, with Jared Datoc coming on in relief. Datoc gave up three runs on a walk and two singles before the Jackets’ 89th double play ended the inning with a daunting 8-0 deficit -- the big inning had struck once again. Connor Justus doubled in the sixth, but was unable to score before Florida left fielder Danny Reyes made an outstanding catch to preserve the shutout and rob Matt Gonzalez of a 303rd career hit.
Micah Carpenter pitched a scoreless 7th for the Jackets, another freshman pitcher getting some valuable playoff experience. In the bottom, Reyes robbed Craport of a double before Johnson picked up his third hit of the day.
Bailey Combs came in for the Jackets to pitch the 8th and gave up a couple of hits but no runs.
Keenan Innis pinch hit and led off the 8th with a double, ending his somewhat disappointing junior season on a high note. Pabst was then hit by a pitch, but Faedo rallied and got three outs in succession, striking out Gonzalez to end the inning on his 101st pitch, still leading 8-0. It was Gonzalez’ last at bat in a fantastic college career, and he will truly be missed.
Bobby Gauvreau came into pitch the Gator 9th, but a leadoff walk earned him a quick exit for Zac Ryan, who completed a second walk charged to Gauvreau. A liner that Stallings couldn’t reach loaded the bases with no outs, and a wild pitch and RBI groundout made it 10-0. Ryan hit the next batter on a 2-strike count and Coach Hall brought in Robert Winborne to finish the inning.
Senior Grant Wruble got his last at-bat as a pinch hitter as Scott Moss came into pitch for Florida. Faedo had been magnificent, aided by some great defense. The Jackets didn’t quit, with Craport reaching on a weird error and Johnson and Stallings picking up singles, loading the bases with one out for pinch-hitting Coleman Poje, whose patience earned him a base on balls RBI, ending the shutout and Moss’ time on the mound. Closer Shaun Anderson came in to face Pabst and struck him out, bringing up Justus as Tech’s last hope. His ground out ended the game and the Jackets’ season with a 10-1 final score. Joey Bart, Matt Gonzalez, Tristin English, and Wade Bailey were later named to the all-regional team for the Gainesville Regional.
The Jackets battled until they ran into a truly great college baseball team, never quitting. Now they go their various ways, looking to the MLB draft on Thursday for Gonzalez and certain underclassmen. Those seniors whose baseball careers are over head off to real life or return to finish their degree. Other players head off to Summer baseball on Cape Cod or elsewhere; perhaps some minor arm surgery or summer school at the Institute. The coaches will recruit and also watch the MLB draft to see which of the recruited high school players may not report in the fall, and if any underclassmen decide to go pro. A season that started with twelve wins didn’t live up to its promise, with the team going 26-25 after the perfect 12-0 start. I think the record was due mainly to some pitching injuries and some erratic defensive play, but marked an significant improvement over 2015.
Here’s a statistic that illustrates the pitching problem in one number: 326 walks and hit batsmen given versus 251 received! I venture that this team with a healthy Jonathan Hughes and Jonathan King filling the weekend starter roles with Brandon Gold – as in the opening weekend - would be hosting a regional. The 2017 team will reconvene in September for Fall practice.