The Penguins came from Coach Hall’s home state of Ohio to visit Atlanta this weekend for the first time since 2008. The Penguins came in at 0-3, having lost to Austin Peay, Indiana State, and Illinois State in Clarksville, Tennessee last weekend. As such, the weekend series was the first three-game series of the year for both squads.
Friday: Georgia Tech 15, Youngstown State 6
W: Xzavion Curry (2-0) | L: Joe King (0-2)
The Yellow Jackets (4-0) went with the same starting rotation for the second straight weekend, starting freshman Xzavion Curry (1-0, 0.00 ERA) on Friday against Youngstown State’s (0-3) senior LHP Joe King. The Jackets provided a nice little “Welcome to Atlanta” to the Penguins, as they sent 12 batters to the plate in the first inning, scoring 8 runs off of 7 hits and an error. In King’s defense, the error led to almost all the runs being unearned (only 5 of the 12 he gave up in the game were earned). Peurifoy, Wilhite, and Craport all doubled in the inning. In the 2nd, Chase Murray’s first home run at Georgia Tech made it 11-0, and a Joey Bart solo shot in the 3rd made it 12-0.
The Penguins scored in the 4th inning, starting with three singles capped off by a walk — Curry’s first run allowed in 2017. Another single that just missed being a double play ball scored a second run, and a third scored on yet another single. Luckily, the same play saw Ryan Peurifoy throw out a runner trying to score from 2nd to end the inning and cap off the damage. Curry was fortunate to escape a really big inning, having given up five singles and a walk.
The Jackets added a pair of runs in the bottom of the 4th and 5th innings on a Coleman Poje solo homer and a Joey Bart RBI double. Robert Winborne came on in relief of Curry to pitch the 6th along with several replacement players, including Kyle McCann’s first appearance at catcher. Jake Lee came on in the 7th, and got into trouble in the 8th, giving up 3 runs of his own as the Penguins batted around before leaving the bases loaded on a final deep fly ball out. The two teams were tied with a combined 13 hits midway through the eighth, but the Yellow Jackets still sported a comfortable 14-6 lead.
Following Murray’s lead from earlier, Kyle McCann hit the first home run of his own college career in the bottom of the 8th to push the Jackets’ lead to 15-6. Burton Dulaney came in and slammed the door in the 9th, completing the 9-run victory for Georgia Tech with Curry getting the win.
Saturday: Georgia Tech 14, Youngstown State 6
W: Jared Datoc (2-0) | L: Joel Hake (0-2)
The Jackets (5-0) put Jonathan Hughes on the mound against the Penguins’ (0-4) sophomore right-hander Joel Hake. Hughes got off to a rocky start, hitting the first batter and walking the second before a 6-4-3 double play and fly out to center put a stop to that threat. Continuing their early-season pattern of jumping out to a lead, Tech hit Hake hard in the bottom of the first. A Peurifoy triple and doubles from Poje and Keenan Innis were the highlights as the Jackets batted around in the first inning for the third consecutive game. After one inning, Georgia Tech had given Hughes a 5-0 lead.
Peurifoy continued to prevent runs in the second by running down a deep fly that would have scored two had it dropped. The Penguins did break through in the 3rd on a double by Andrew Kendrick, before Jared Datoc relieved Hughes for the top of the 4th due to a high pitch count for the starter. (His perfect ERA remains intact, though.) The Penguins also went to the bullpen in the 4th, calling on Gino Divencenzo to relieve Hake with one out and runners on 1st and 3rd. Bailey scored in the inning by singling, stealing twice, and coming in on a wild pitch.
The Jackets’ lead was 6-1 after four, when Jay Shadday came in to pitch. Georgia Tech scored 3 more in the 5th, aided by some shaky defense from YSU, making it a 9-1 lead. The big lead was short-lived though, with five Penguins scoring in the top of the 6th, aided by an error on Peurifoy and capped by a Shane Willoughby two-run homer to right. (Due to the error, only one of the runs was counted as earned against Shadday.)
YSU brought in Alex Bellardini to pitch in the bottom of the 6th, hoping he could shut down the Jackets. He could not, as four Jackets scored, aided by the third error of the game by 3B Nico Padovan and capped by Kyle McCann’s second bomb of the weekend (and of his college career). The Jackets added a final run in the 8th when Bart singled in Bailey, for a final score of 14-6.
Datoc got his second win, again in vulture fashion. Bart led the Jackets’ offense with 3 hits, one of 7 Georgia Tech players to end up with a multi-hit game.
(Also of note is that at one point between innings, I spoke briefly to Tristin English at the concession stand, asking him about the lack of any cast or sleeve on his arm. He said he only had to wear a soft cast for the first month and has already been able to start light rehab. Good news indeed!)
Sunday: Youngstown State 12, Georgia Tech 3
W: Collin Floyd (1-1) | L: Keyton Gibson (1-1)
Keyton Gibson took the mound on Sunday for Georgia Tech (6-0) against Youngstown State’s (0-5) sophomore lefty Collin Floyd. Floyd broke a recent trend by opposing pitchers when he got out of the first inning unscathed, popping up Peurifoy to leave the bases loaded. The Penguins responded strongly in the 2nd, aided by two walks and a hit batter. When Anthony Rohan hit a grand slam over the left field wall, it was suddenly 6-0, and the Jackets trailed for the first time in 2017. When Andrew Kendrick followed with a two-run shot in the same frame, Gibson’s day was done and Robert Winborne was called in to stop the bleeding. Facing an 8-0 deficit heading into the bottom of the 2nd, Georgia Tech could certainly score 8 runs — but would they?
Brandt Stallings led off the Tech 2nd with a solo homer to make it 8-1, but the Jackets failed to score again in the remainder of the frame. Winborne pitched well until the 5th, when he gave up a two-run shot to Trey Bridis that extended Georgia Tech’s deficit to 10-1. The Jackets got those two back in the bottom of the 5th on a Bart single with the bases loaded, but Kel Johnson hit into a double play, to end the inning with the Jackets still trailing 10-3.
The Penguins immediately pushed the lead back to 9 against relievers Garrett Gooden and Burton Dulaney in the 6th inning. The Penguins brought in Jesse Slinger to face Tech in their 6th, relieving Floyd after he pitched well. He, Divencenzo and Kevin Yarabinec combined to shut the Jackets’ offense down for the rest of the afternoon for a final score of 12-3. The game was Youngstown State’s first win of the year, and the Jackets’ first loss.
The Penguins’ pitchers only walked one and gave up 7 hits between them. Conversely, Georgia Tech’s pitchers walked four and HIT four batters, aside from giving up nine hits. It’s hard to win like that. On a positive note, Bailey Combes and Zac Ryan pitched the final two innings for the Jackets without allowing any further runs. Gibson took the loss for Tech after a brutal, short outing.
Honestly, Georgia Tech should have swept Youngstown State, though the Penguins are a solid offensive team (they put up 24 runs throughout the weekend) and it’s not surprising they could put together a good pitching effort at least once. As Coach Hall noted in his post-game video, the Jackets’ coaches have to be concerned about their starting pitching, since Curry barely got through the fifth while Hughes and Gibson only pitched 5.2 combined innings.
To make things more challenging, Georgia State and Kennesaw State (each coming off of Sunday wins) visit Tuesday and Wednesday, meaning Georgia Tech will need a pair of midweek starters to hopefully offer some rest to a bullpen that’s already thrown nearly 40 innings this season. The good news is that Ben Parr is well-rested and Zac Ryan only pitched one inning this weekend, combined with the fact that Tech has a lot of young pitchers who can earn some playing time. This week should be an early test for a young Yellow Jackets squad.