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Baseball: Jackets Win Midweek Game vs. Georgia State & Weekend Series vs. Belmont

The Jackets’ bats remain hot early in the year, while the pitching staff still has questions to answer.

Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics

Tuesday: Georgia Tech 12, Georgia State 5

W: Jared Datoc (3-0) | L: Tyler Elwer (0-1)

Georgia State came to Russ Chandler having beaten the same three teams during the Atlanta Challenge that Tech had beaten. The Panthers were coming off of a lost weekend series against Jacksonville on the road, but had won on Sunday to regain some momentum. The Jackets were going for their eighth straight win over their cross-town rivals, and sent senior Ben Parr to the mound against junior righty Tyler Elwer, who was making his first Division 1 appearance as a junior college transfer.

In the bottom of the 1st, Joey Bart and Kel Johnson gave Mr. Elwer a little “welcome to D1” with back-to-back home runs, Bart’s with two on. Both were no-doubters over the center field wall just left of the batter’s eye. Unfortunately, the Panthers’ Romero Greer and Ryan Blanton also went back-to-back in the top of the 2nd, both solo, cutting the Yellow Jackets’ lead to 4-2. The Jackets got one run back in the bottom of the frame on a Wade Bailey double and Trevor Craport RBI single, prompting a Georgia State pitching change where Elwer was relieved by Jansen Acton. Still, the Jackets added 3 more in the bottom of the 3rd on a Brandt Stallings solo homer and on RBIs from Bart and Johnson. At the end of 3, Georgia Tech held a comfortable 8-2 lead.

Both teams changed pitchers for the 4th inning, as Jared Datoc relieved Parr for Georgia Tech after the starter threw 64 pitches through 3 innings. Jordan Lee came in to pitch for GSU to start the 4th. He began with a perfect frame, but then in the 5th the Jackets added to their lead with a Bailey double driving in Austin Wilhite and a Johnson sacrifice fly scoring Bailey. Another Panthers pitching change (this time calling on Devin Vainer) ended the rally, and it was 10-2 Jackets after 5 innings.

Andy Archer came into pitch for Georgia Tech in the top of the 7th -- his second appearance of the year. He got a quick out before giving up a pinch-hit home run to Georgia State’s Terrell Frazier. It was only the Panthers’ 3rd hit of the game, but all of them had been home runs.

The Jackets immediately restored order in their 7th when a double by Johnson drove in Craport and Bart, giving Johnson 5 RBI on the day to eclipse Bart’s 4 RBI.

With a 12-3 lead for the Jackets in the top of the 9th, Jonathan King came in for his second appearance of the year as he tries to recover from arm troubles last year. After two outs, he ran into trouble and gave up Georgia State’s 4th home run – and 5th hit – of the game with a runner on. He then quickly secured the third out to secure the 12-5 victory.

Jared Datoc, with three solid no-hit innings in relief of Parr, got his third win win. The four homers are clearly of concern for a pitching staff that’s been vulnerable at times early this season, but fortunately Tech pitchers limited the damage otherwise.

Wednesday: Georgia Tech vs. Kennesaw State (POSTPONED)

With treacherous weather in the area, the Jackets’ game against the Owls was postponed until later this year. Georgia Tech travels to Kennesaw State for their next midweek game this week on March 7th, but KSU will still owe them a return trip some time later in the season at a date that’s still to be determined.

In reality, this game being postponed isn’t the worst thing for the Yellow Jackets, who have made significant use of their bullpen early in this season. Another 9 innings on a weeknight would have likely done no favors to their fatigue level.

Friday: Georgia Tech 12, Belmont 3

W: Xzavion Curry (3-0) | L: Tyler Vaughn (0-2)

The Bruins of Nashville, Tennessee and the Ohio Valley Conference traveled to Georgia Tech at 4-4 and on a three-game win streak, having outlasted Southern Illinois in a shootout (18-17!) on Tuesday. It was the first-ever meeting between the Yellow Jackets and Bruins.

Maintaining the same weekend rotation, Tech sent Xzavion Curry (2-0, 2.70 era) to the mound against junior RHP Tyler Vaughn (0-1, 4.91 era). Curry would have his most impressive outing so far this year.

Wade Bailey manufactured a run in the bottom of the 1st by doubling, moving to 3rd on a Craport groundout to the left side (nice base running) and scoring on a Kel Johnson sacrifice fly. Curry notched his first pickoff in the top of the 2nd after Bournigal singled.

In the bottom of the 2nd, Ryan Peurifoy and Kyle McCann scored on a Wilhite double as they were running on the pitch, before Wilhite scored on a Bailey single. The Jackets weren’t done yet, with Craport driving a shot over the left field wall into a stiff wind, scoring Bailey to make it a 6-0 Georgia Tech lead. Tech extended that lead in the 4th on singles by McCann, Wilhite, and Poje and a double by Bailey to make it 9-0.

With one out in the top of the 5th, Curry hit Nick Egli with a pitch, and then recorded his second pick-off of the game. (Ed. Note: Disrespectful as hell.) Curry was dealing in the middle of the game, as he faced the minimum in the 3rd through 6th innings, striking out 6 of the 12 batters with the hit-by-pitch as his only blemish. Jonathan King relieved him for the 7th and quickly got into trouble, loading the bases on a single and two walks before Jake Lee relieved him. All three of King’s base runners scored between a single and two groundouts, cutting Georgia Tech’s lead to 9-3 heading into the bottom of the 7th.

Tyler Alderfer came on in relief for Belmont in the 7th, giving up two runs in the frame on a Wilhite single that drove in Chase Murray and Poje. It was Wilhite’s third hit of the game and 4th RBI. In the bottom of the 8th, Bart hit a home run off the scoreboard to set up the final score of 12-3.

Jake Lee closed out the game, posting three innings of one-hit ball and only allowing King’s baserunners to score in the 7th. Curry got the win with an impressive performance.

Saturday: Georgia Tech 10, Belmont 2

W: Jonathan Hughes (1-0) | L: Dylan King (1-2)

Jonathan Hughes (0-0, 1.29 ERA) took the mound for Tech on Saturday against sophomore RHP Dylan King (1-1, 0.75 ERA) — the brother of Georgia Tech’s Jonathan King.

The Jackets fell behind in the 1st on a pair of doubles and a sacrifice fly that gave the Bruins an early 2-0 lead. Hughes avoided a disaster by leaving two on base with a final strikeout. The Belmont lead only lasted a third of an inning, however, as Joey Bart tied the game with a homer after Wade Bailey singled. In the Tech 2nd, Bailey singled in Chase Murray from 2nd to make it a 3-2 lead for the Jackets — the first lead change in any Georgia Tech game this season.

In the bottom of the 4th, Belmont got two quick outs on a double play, then four walks and a single scored two more runs for the Jackets to push the lead to 5-2. Again in the 5th, the Bruins got two quick outs before Peurifoy doubled and was driven in by McCann to make it 6-2. When Wilhite singled, the younger King’s day was done and Kyle Klotz came in, and recorded the 3rd out.

Jared Datoc came in to pitch for Tech in the 6th, relieving Hughes for the second consecutive Saturday, although Hughes had qualified for a win this time with 5 innings of 3-hit, 2-run ball.

In Tech’s 6th, Joey Bart hit his second home run of the game (and sixth of the year) to make it 7-2.

After Datoc tossed two quality innings, Micah Carpenter came in for the top of the 8th. Two singles with two out caused some concern, but a pop-up ended the threat. In the bottom of the frame, the Jackets continued to inflict two-out damage when Keenan Innis (who came in for Poje in the 6th) drove in Bailey, Bart, and Johnson with a bases-clearing double, making it 10-2.

Zac Ryan came in to close it out in the 9th. He wasn’t at his best, giving up a double and two walks before a 4-6-3 double play ended the game for a 10-2 Georgia Tech victory. Hughes got the win, while Dylan King took the loss.

Sunday: Belmont 11, Georgia Tech 5

W: Brennan Washington (1-0) | L: Keyton Gibson (1-2)

Keyton Gibson (1-1, 12.15 ERA) was completely ineffective in losing to Youngstown State last Sunday, but got another chance to secure the weekend starter spot before ACC play. Righty Conner Etheridge (0-0, 5.87 ERA) started for the Bruins.

Unfortunately, Gibson’s day ended before he made it through the first inning. He walked the leadoff man on four pitches before giving up 3 runs on a single, triple, and sacrifice fly. After a two-out single, Gibson started with a ball to Ben Kocher when Danny Hall decided he’d seen enough. With a 1-0 count, Gibson was replaced by Robert Winborne, who walked that batter before recording the third out of the inning. Despite such an early pitching change, the Jackets’ deficit was a manageable 3-0. Tech got one run back in the bottom of the 1st on 3 straight singles by Bart, Johnson, and Murray to make it 3-1.

Sadly, Winborne’s 2nd went no better, with Belmont adding 4 more runs on two singles, a hit batsman, and a home run by Egli. Winborne didn’t make it out of the 2nd inning, as Micah Carpenter came in for some damage control with the score 7-1.

Tech attempted to begin a comeback when a Kel Johnson RBI single made it 7-2.

After 1.2 scoreless innings from Carpenter, Ben Schneiderjans came in to pitch to the Bruins in the 4th. He went 2 innings of scoreless ball before some trouble in the sixth.

Meanwhile, Belmont suffered a heavy blow in Tech’s 5th when Bailey hit a line drive that appeared to hit Etheridge in his pitching shoulder, requiring the starter to come out. He had been pitching very well and was relieved by Brennan Washington, who had played outfield the first two games. Joey Bart greeted him with a two-run blast to left center, making the score 7-4 after five innings.

A walk and a Kel Johnson error at first base had Schneiderjans in trouble to start the 6th inning. Zac Ryan came on in relief with two on and no out. Unfortunately, a hit batter with the bases loaded and a subsequent RBI single stuck Schneiderjans with 2 runs allowed (1 earned) without giving up a hit. Afterward, Ryan scored a double play to stop the bleeding and leave 2 Bruins on base.

The Jackets picked up one run in their 7th to cut the lead to 9-5, but time was running out. In the 8th, Belmont brought in Dom Veltri to pitch, with Washington having given them three solid emergency innings after Etheridge’s injury.

Belmont added an insurance run in their 9th on a bunt single and double, prompting Coach Hall to bring in Jay Shadday to pitch with it 10-5. He gave up another run on a sacrifice fly, giving Tech a 6-run deficit with three outs left. The Jackets could do nothing in their 9th, leaving the final 11-5 Belmont and the Jackets at 9-2 overall. Washington was credited with the win, while the loss went to Gibson.

Bottom Line

For the second series straight, the opponents seemed to have saved their best efforts until Sunday on both offense and pitching/defense. Combined with Georgia Tech’s apparent lack of a reliable Sunday starter, this has led to both early losses. It will be interesting to see who takes the mound next Sunday in Miami, where the Hurricanes are struggling and look vulnerable.

The good news is our Friday and Saturday starters had really solid games and the offense continues to shine. Joey Bart now leads the team in home runs with 7, and was named National Player of the Week by Collegiate Baseball after starting at catcher for all of the team’s four games and hitting 5 home runs throughout.

The next game on the schedule is at Kennesaw State this Tuesday, where weather threatens to rain out both games of that season series without a good option for when to reschedule.