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Baseball: Despite Friday Win, Georgia Tech Drops Series to Wake Forest

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The Jackets have now lost each of their first 3 series in ACC play, and with one singular culprit as to why.

Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics

If Tech looked to get a break in ACC play after UNC, Wake Forest (16-6, 4-2) is not that break. They had won 8 out of the last 10, including series wins over NC State at home and at Duke. Tech would be facing their third hot team in a row. The Demons were one of only two teams with more home runs than the Jackets, with 40 compared to 34. Once again thanks to WREK and the ESPN app.

Friday: Georgia Tech 7, Wake Forest 6 (11 Innings)

W: Zac Ryan (3-1) | L: John McCarren (2-2)

Xzavion Curry (3-2, 4.15 ERA) went against senior righty Parker Dunshee (4-1, 5.16 ERA).

Curry got into trouble right away, loading the bases with no outs in the first, and Wake got two of them in to make it 2-0. Tech got one back in their 2nd when Poje led off with a massive home run to left. A chance for more was wasted, however, when Wilhite got caught off first by the catcher after a pitch, pushing Hall from second into getting tagged out at third.

Wilhite settled down, getting through the 2nd and 3rd with nothing but a walk in each inning. In the Tech 4th, Coleman Poje seemed to say, “I see why y’all have 40 homers” by blasting one over the right field fence to tie the game at two. Curry got shut down Wake with 9 pitches in the bottom of the 4th, but couldn’t get through the 5th as easily as a two out double drove in Wake’s third run all the way from first. The Jackets tied it back in the 6th with a double by Joey Bart, single by Poje, and sacrifice fly by McCann.

Curry’s night ended with runners on 2nd and 3rd and one out, due to Poje being unable to handle a deep fly ball after a leadoff single and sacrifice bunt. Jared Datoc came in and walked the bases loaded, then the Jackets couldn’t turn a double play with a fast batter on a bouncing ball to short. The score was 4-3 after 6 innings and Wake brought in their closer, Griffin Roberts. The first two batters reached, but were stranded at 2nd and 3rd when Poje failed to get a hit for the only time all night. The Jackets again stranded the potential tying run at 2nd in their 8th when Wilhite struck out. Then, the unfortunate recent trend of the Jackets giving up insurance runs late continued in the 8th, when Logan Harvey blasted a two run homer over the left field fence with two outs to make it 6-3. It was the first hit off Datoc.

That insurance was big, and Tech was down to one out when Craport singled and Bart walked to bring up Poje with two outs. After the catcher dropped a potential game ending popup, Poje bounced to the pitcher and the Deacons melted down, making two errors on the play and allowing both base runners to score and Poje to reach 3rd. A wild pitch brought him home and the game was amazingly tied at 6 going into the bottom of the 9th. Zac Ryan came in to pitch, and survived a leadoff single and barely foul long ball to send the game to extras. Wake had made three errors in the inning and five total in the game.

John McCarren came in to pitch to Tech in the 10th and although Hall reached third he couldn’t score. After Ryan retired Wake, Ryan Peurifoy hit the first pitch of the 11th over the left field wall to give the Jackets their first lead at 7-6. Ryan retired the Deacons 1-2-3 in the bottom to preserve the win. I confess to having already written this up as a loss before the ninth inning, but gleefully erased that! All three of Tech’s ACC victories have been in extra innings and all have been credited to Ryan. Seven Tech walks plus HBP versus eight by Deacon pitchers.

Saturday: Wake Forest 17, Georgia Tech 8

W: Donnie Sellers (3-1) | L: Jonathan Hughes (1-1)

Jonathan Hughes (1-0, 3.15 ERA) went against junior righty Donnie Sellers (2-1, 4.03 ERA). So far, the Jackets have been undefeated on Saturdays this season.

Hughes’ control problems from last Saturday – which brought him out early with a blister – continued with two walks in the first and he paid the price when Wake scored on a two out single to make it 1-0. In Wake’s 2nd, the Jackets got two quick outs, but a tough error on Craport proved to be disastrous as it followed by a double and two wild pitches to made it 3-0. Hughes still couldn’t get the third out as he walked a batter and hit the next batter. Three straight hits made it 6-0 and Hughes’ day was done, with Ben Schneiderjans coming in and quickly getting the third out. None of the five runs in the 2nd were earned due to the error.

Bailey Combes came in to pitch the 3rd, a probable sign that Schneiderjans will be starting in Macon on Tuesday. Combes got three outs without trouble, helped by Bart throwing out a base stealer. In the top of the 4th, Poje reached on a Wake error and scored from 2nd on a Johnson double to make it 6-1. Unfortunately, Wake answered with a three run homer and a two run homer in the bottom of the 4th to make it an awful 11-1. Keyton Gibson came in to pitch the 5th and held the deficit to ten.

The Jackets chipped away with two runs in their 6th with a solo home run from Johnson and an RBI double from Austin Wilhite after Brandt Stallings singled. But Gibson couldn’t stop the Deacons and was relieved by Andy Archer after loading the bases with one out. Archer gave up a run on a wild pitch and then a three run home run made it 15-3. The inability of Tech to carry any momentum from an extra inning win is frustrating. Wake brought in Drew Loepprich to pitch for the 7th. After Tech strung together 4 singles and a double in the 8th to score thrice, Wake brought in Chris Farish. Tech had outhit Wake to this point, but still trailed by 9, mainly due to walks, wild pitches, and errors. Farish gave up two more runs on a wild pitch and groundout, making it 15-8.

Garrett Gooden came in to pitch for Tech in the bottom of the 8th, but he could only record one out and gave up a run before yielding to Micah Carpenter. The Wake Forest coach still had his starters in the game, clearly taking no chances after Friday. Carpenter got out of the inning with another run scored to make it 17-8 and Carter Bach came in to pitch to Tech’s last chance and the game ended 17-8. Eleven walks plus HBP by Jacket pitchers versus three by Wake was too much to overcome.

Sunday: Wake Forest 8, Georgia Tech 4

W: Connor Johnstone (3-0) | L: Jay Shadday (1-1)

I was not able to watch or listen to the whole game Sunday, so thanks to ramblinwreck.com for a lot of my information. Tech sent Jay Shadday (1-0, 0.63 ERA) up against senior righty Connor Johnstone (2-0, 3.45 ERA) in the rubber game. Tech hadn't won on Sunday since Western Michigan on February 19th.

Jay kept the Deacons off the scoreboard in the 1st for the first time this weekend, stranding runners on 2nd and 3rd. In Tech’s 2nd, a Chase Murray double with two outs drove in Kel Johnson all the way from 1st. Kel had reached on an error. Shadday again stranded two in the Wake 2nd and Tech had their only regular innings lead of the series, 1-0. The lead only lasted until the 3rd, however, as Wake got a two out RBI double to tie it at 1. Tech regained the lead in their 4th when Poje led off with a double and scored on Austin Wilhite’s two out single. But, Wake took the lead for good in their half of the inning when they scored three and chased Shadday for Robert Winborne. Wake added a fifth run in their 5th and Tech brought in Jared Datoc. Tech got their third run when Kel Johnson led off the 6th with a double and scored on two groundouts; the Jackets could never mount a sustained rally.

Wake added two more in the 7th when Ryan relieved Datoc and allowed two runs on a wild pitch swinging third strike (must have been a doozy, but reports say it appeared to hit the batter’s leg which was not called). Tech loaded the bases with one out in the 8th, but again could only manage one run, which was matched by Wake in the bottom of the inning for the final score of 8-4 and the Jackets fell to 13-9 (3-6). Shadday got the loss, Johnstone got the win.

Bottom Line

I suppose I should be grateful Tech isn’t 0-9 in ACC play, given the nature of the three wins. If I had to name a major source of the Jackets’ pitching – and winning – troubles, control is way up there. Through 22 games, Tech pitchers have walked 112 versus 87 by opponents, and hit an astonishing 37 versus 19. Close to two HBP incidents per game!

The season continues to challenge, with a trip to play a really good Mercer (21-5) Tuesday then hosting a pretty hot Clemson Tigers (20-4, 8-1). The Jackets hold the last ACC Tournament slot (12th place) after nine games.