Trying to get the taste of bitterness out after a misbegotten trip to South Bend, the Jackets traveled to Athens to play the first of three games this season against their in-state rivals. Entering the game, Tech still barely hung on to an overall winning record while the dwags were 14-19 after losing two out of three to Missouri in a series between Athens and the new SunTrust Park. Both teams badly needed a win.
Tuesday: georgia 5, Georgia Tech 1
W: Zac Kristofak (2-1) | L: Jonathan Hughes (1-2)
On a pre-announced “staff day” Jonathan Hughes (1-1, 4.88 ERA) started for Tech against right-handed freshman Zac Kristofak (1-1. 3.43 ERA). Hughes’ ability is badly needed by the Tech pitching staff, but has struggled mightily with control in recent starts. He leads the staff in walks, wild pitches, and hit batsmen.
Tech stranded runners on the corners to start the game, failing to get the clutch hit in an all-too-familiar fashion. The dwags struck first when a runner coming from second base was beaten to the plate by a nice throw from Coleman Poje, but the ball was lost by Joey Bart in a collision. Hughes was lifted after only 4 batters for Jared Datoc with one out and runners on the corners. Datoc gave up an RBI double to the first batter he faced, and a run-scoring fielder’s choice before finishing out the first inning. Heading to the second inning, the Jackets trailed 3-0.
After three hard-hit balls unfortunately resulted in outs in the top of the 2nd, Keyton Gibson (another promising pitcher trying to get back on track) came in to pitch the bottom of the inning for Georgia Tech. He got a quick, welcome 1-2-3 inning on eleven pitches. He returned for the bottom of the 3rd, but it didn’t go as well, with a solo home run by Cam Shepherd growing the Jackets’ deficit to 4-0.
In the top of the 4th Kristofak was relieved by left handed Kevin Smith, who was equally effective against the Jackets in following up a leadoff walk by setting down three straight batters. Gibson returned for the bottom of the inning and hit the leadoff batter – the 44th batter that the pitching staff has hit this season. He did regroup, aided by Joey Bart throwing out a base stealer.
Both hurlersr returned for the 5th. Gibson gave up a couple of two out singles and an intentional walk before getting out of the bases loaded jam with a grounder to first. He earned another look from the coaches as a potential starter with three pretty solid innings.
Right handed Shane Tucker pitched to Tech in the 6th and walked Bart before striking out Johnson and Poje. He was relieved by left handed submarine pitcher Adam Goodman, while Coach Hall countered with pinch hitter Brandt Stallings, who struck out. Micah Carpenter pitched the bottom of the 6th and quickly retired georgia with a seven-pitch inning.
Goodman was relieved in the top of the 7th after a one-out walk to Murray. Right handed Drew Moody came in and got an out before an error on the shortstop allowed Murray to score the Jackets’ only run of the game, cutting the deficit to 4-1.
Bailey Combs came in for the bottom of the 7th and kept the deficit where it was on only eleven pitches. Moody came back to face Tech in the 8th and struck out Tech’s three big home run hitters – Joey Bart, Kel Johnson, and Coleman Poje.
Combs came back for the bottom of the 8th and gave up a walk, single, and an RBI double before walking the bases loaded with one out. He showed some grit by getting a strikeout and groundout to strand all three, but Tech still trailed by four coming up for their last chance.
Blake Cairnes pitched the 9th for uga, and struck out the Wilhite twins before Chase Murray kept the team’s chances alive with a two-out single. Keenan Innis came up as a pinch hitter for Ryan Peurifoy, but also struck out to end the game. Georgia Tech lost by a final score of 5-1. Hughes got the loss, Kristofak the win.
The Tech offense looks as though they haven’t yet recovered from the Notre Dame trip, collecting only four hits and a whopping 15 strikeouts. A couple of the Tech pitchers were more competitive, but it wasn't enough.
With Louisville coming Thursday through Saturday, the Jacket season could soon go into a death spiral if nothing changes.