I had the chance to travel and watch the Jackets as they traveled to South Bend for the first time ever for the teams’ second weekend series since Notre Dame joined the ACC, after Georgia Tech won two out of three in Atlanta in 2015. The teams came in with identical 4-8 ACC records and if the season ended after this weekend, the winner of the series would go to the ACC tournament and the loser would not, presenting large stakes. The Jackets were very late getting out of Atlanta Thursday due to flight delays caused by the storms and they had barely any rest that night.
Friday: Notre Dame 4, Georgia Tech 3
W: Sean Guenther (1-2) | L: Bailey Combs (0-1)
Xzavion Curry (3-3, 5.55 ERA) went against junior right hander Brandon Bielak (2-4, 4.71). The weather was cold and windy, although clear.
The Jackets jumped up in the first when Trevor Craport was awarded a double when the right fielder lost a ball in the stiff wind. Kel Johnson later singled him in for a 1-0 lead. After the Irish doubled in the first, the runner was stranded when Chase Murray battled the wind on a towering fly. In the bottom of the 2nd, the Irish put two on with an error and walk, but Craport made a super play reaching over the wall near the 1st base dugout for the third out on a pop foul – again battling wind. Notre Dame again threatened in the 4th with a pair of two-out singles and a dropped fly ball by Craport (due to wind again), though the ball was (albeit questionably) ruled foul, saving a run.
Tech put another run up in the top of the 5th when Joey Bart singled in Craport, making it a 2-0 lead for the Jackets. The Irish answered in the bottom of the frame when Kyle Fiala scored on a Matt Vierling single to make it 2-1. Curry’s day finally ended with one out in the 6th after he gave up a double and two singles that tied the game. Robert Winborne came in with runners on 1st and 2nd and immediately walked the next batter on four pitches, prompting Coach Hall to bring in Bailey Combs. Combs got a pop up for the second out, but a single scored the third run before Murray threw out a runner trying to score another. After 6 innings, Notre Dame led 3-2.
Sean Guenther came in to pitch the 7th and went the rest of the way to eventually earn the win. He gave up a run in the eighth inning when Murray beat out a double play to score Coleman Poje with two outs, tying the game at 3.
Cole Daily started off the bottom of the 8th for the Irish with a triple. Hall went to Valparaiso, Indiana native Zac Ryan to try and keep the Irish off the board. After Ryan walked the first batter, McCann couldn’t handle a throw at first, loading the bases with no outs. A single scored the runner from third giving Notre Dame a 4-3 lead, before a strikeout and double play ended the inning without further damage.
Tech suffered from a bad break in the 9th when Craport led off and was safe at first on a bad throw. He then tripped over the first baseman trying to turn the corner and was thrown out at second base. Coach Hall protested to no avail that it was obstruction, and the game ended after two more quick outs with Notre Dame as 4-3 winners.
Saturday: Notre Dame 4, Georgia Tech 3
W: Michael Hearne (2-1) | L: Jay Shadday (2-2) | S: Peter Solomon (1)
Jay Shadday (2-1, 2.25 ERA) pitched against graduate left hander Michael Hearne (1-1, 3.03).
The Irish started off quickly in the bottom of the first, loading the bases with a single, walk, sacrifice bunt, and another walk. Shadday was able to escape the jam without allowing a run, though, thanks to a strikeout and flyout. Unfortunately, another bases-loaded situation in the 2nd resulted in a grand slam by Kyle Fiala, giving the Irish a 4-0 lead. Shadday had walked four batters in the first two innings, including two of those who scored on the home run.
Wade Bailey singled to start the fourth inning, and came all the way around to score when Kel Johnson dribbled a spinning ball toward the mound, the catcher threw it away, and then the Irish right fielder was too casual getting it back into the infield. Bailey’s sharp baserunning cut the deficit to 4-1.
After Shadday worked out of another jam in the 4th before cruising through an easy 5th inning, Jared Datoc came in to face the Irish in the 6th. Datoc finished the game with three innings of scoreless, one-hit work to keep the Jackets alive.
Meanwhile, Hearne was shutting down the Georgia Tech offense with incredible efficiency, recording scoreless frames in the 5th, 6th and 7th innings on a combined 18 pitches.
The Jackets got a second run in their 8th when Austin Wilhite reached on an error and later scored on a Craport sacrifice fly. Through 8 innings, Georgia Tech’s offense had produced only two runs against Hearne – neither was earned.
In the top of the 9th, Brandt Stallings hit a pop foul that the 1st baseman caught, then dropped. The umps ruled he had already caught it, and Coach Hall was again incensed by a weird 9th inning ruling that went against the Jackets. Austin Wilhite later drove in McCann with a two-out single, leaving runners on the corners for Ryan Peurifoy. Hearne was pulled just an out short of finishing the complete game, and the Irish brought in Peter Solomon. The first pitch was popped up, almost identically to the Stallings’ one, ending the game. Tech lost a second straight heartbreaker by a final score of 4-3.
Hearne recorded the win, Shadday the loss, and Solomon the save. Shadday was hurt badly by his poor start, featuring four walks. With the loss, the Jackets fell to 4-10 in the ACC, beginning to find themselves in serious trouble.
Sunday: Notre Dame 9, Georgia Tech 6
W: Brad Bass (2-4) | L: Jake Lee (1-2) | Peter Solomon (2)
Jake Lee (1-1, 8.22 ERA) started for the Jackets against junior right hander Brad Bass (1-4, 3.73 ERA). Tech would need to win on Sunday to avoid being swept for the first time this season!
After leaving the bases loaded in the 1st inning, Georgia Tech benefitted from an error to score Austin Wilhite to take a 1-0 lead in the 2nd. The Jackets added more in the 3rd when a pair of bases-loaded singles from Wilhite and Murray pushed the lead to 4-0.
The Irish loaded the bases in the 3rd on a walk, HBP, and a single. With no outs and the bases loaded, Fiala came to the plate in the same situation where he hit his grand slam Saturday. This time he drew a walk, scoring one to make it a 4-1 Georgia Tech lead. Two batters later, a fielder’s choice for the second out of the inning scored another. A walk and HBP (on a batter who appeared to be swinging) kept the inning alive, making it a 4-3 game. With two outs and the bases still loaded, Lee was relieved by Robert Winborne. A soft liner just cleared Bailey’s glove for a two-run single, and another single scored the sixth run of the inning for Notre Dame. After entering the inning with a 4-run lead, Georgia Tech was trailing 6-4 after three.
With two on and nobody out in the top of the 4th, Bart, Johnson, and Poje failed to drive in a run.
Winborne exited the game in the bottom of the 4th after hitting a batter to put two on with one out. Micah Carpenter came in and got a pair of strikeouts, but the second managed to reach on a passed ball. A wild pitch then scored one and a walk loaded them again, before the inning graciously ended with Notre Dame leading 7-4.
Bass set down six straight Jackets in the 5th and 6th innings and qualified for a win in a game from which he’d nearly been pulled in the 3rd.
Carpenter was relieved by Zac Ryan after the first two reached in the bottom of the 6th. He got out of the inning, but not before allowing a run to score on a sacrifice fly to make it an 8-4 Irish lead.
Charlie Vorsheck came in to pitch the 7th inning for the Irish, but only got one out before he was lifted for left hander Cameron Brown with runners on the corners. Coach Hall countered with Brandt Stallings as a pinch hitter, who struck out. Notre Dame’s Peter Solomon then came in to face Austin Wilhite, who singled in Bart and Poje, though the Jackets were unable to do any more damage.
With their lead cut to 8-6, the Irish got one back in their half on a two-out single, making it a 9-6 lead.
Georgia Tech managed only two hits in the final two innings and was unable to complete the comeback, falling by a final score of 9-6 to complete the sweep by Notre Dame.
Bass got the win, Lee took the loss, and Solomon notched his second save of the weekend.
I didn’t expect this. Tech had managed to win at least one game against the best teams we’ve seen them play this year, including Clemson, UNC, Auburn, and Wake Forest. But the team they were battling for the final ACC tournament slot just swept them, causing grave damage to the season’s hopes. Keep in mind that this Notre Dame team still has a losing record, even after this weekend’s sweep.
Whether the team can regroup on the road against georgia on Tuesday, with a scary-good Louisville team coming to town the following weekend, remains to be seen.