Georgia Tech traveled north to Blacksburg to play the team that now styles itself as VT rather than the historic VPI. Whatever. Weather was a problem, and resulted in a Friday double header. The Hokies featured the top home run hitting team in the nation, with 70 to the Jackets’ 48. They are one of three teams with a 7-11 ACC record that the Jackets, who came in 4-14, can catch with a sweep. The Tech from Georgia had won this series every year since 2010.
Friday, Game 1: Georgia Tech 13, Virginia Tech 3
Xzavion Curry (3-4, 5.91) faced off against redshirt senior left hander Kit Scheetz (3-0, 3.07) at 11 AM. Scheetz had suffered his first loss of the previous two seasons to the Jackets.
Both teams had a double in the 1st, but the Hokies’ came after a walk, so they had an early 1-0 lead.
In the Hokies’ 3rd, Curry got into a big jam by giving up a walk and a double to the same batters as the 1st inning, putting runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs. But, he pitched his way out of it with a strikeout, liner to first, and a ground ball out to keep the score 1-0. Meanwhile, Scheetz was handling the Jackets easily, with only three hits and no walks through five innings. Curry was also pitching well, with only four hits – three by Stoffel – and three walks through five innings.
The Jackets finally broke through in their 6th, when Bart got his second double – and third hit - with one out. Kel Johnson drove him in with a single to tie the game. Then, after Murray walked with two outs, Austin Wilhite drove in the not-speedy Johnson with a clutch single to give the Jackets a 2-1 lead. Curry followed up with a 1-2-3 shutdown bottom of the inning.
Scheetz saw his outing end after Kyle McCann led off the 7th with a home run to right field. Joey Sullivan relieved him and immediately gave up a double to Bailey, who went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Craport’s double to make it 4-1. Joey Bart then picked up his fourth hit of the game with a two run homer, ending Sullivan’s outing quickly, with Paul Hall relieving him, still with no outs. Hall walked Johnson and struck out Poje before Murray singled, and Paul Hall was relieved by Dylan Hall with one out and two on. He struck out Wilhite, but Peurifoy singled in Murray before being thrown out at second base and Tech had a 7-1 lead.
Curry came back for the seventh, trying to match Schneiderjans. He couldn't quite do it, giving up a single, double, and two RBI single after one out to make it 7-3. He was relieved after 6.1 innings and 100 pitches by Jared Datoc to face Sam Fragale, the leading ACC home run hitter. He got Fragale, but walked and hit the next couple of batters to load the bases for a pinch hitter, Nick Anderson, who struck out to keep the lead 7-3 after seven innings.
Joey Bart recorded his fifth hit of the day when he singled with the bases loaded in the eighth after McCann and Bailey had walked and Craport reached on an error. The hit made it 9-3, before Poje got his first hit of the game – a three run homer to make it 12-3.
Bailey Combs pitched for the Jackets in the bottom of the 8th, his mission accomplished on only 9 pitches. Dylan Hall returned in the top of the ninth to take one for the team, and gave up a run when McCann walked, went to third on Craport’s double, and scored on a passed ball as rain started to fall.
Combs came back to finish it and did so after giving up a harmless single. The Jackets got an emphatic 13-3 win to open the series. Curry got to a 4-4 record with a well deserved first career ACC win; Scheetz suffered his first season defeat at Tech’s hands for the third consecutive year. Lots of offensive heroics, but Joey Bart’s five for six with four RBI stands out.
Friday, Game 2: Virginia Tech 8, Georgia Tech 4
Junior right hander Connor Coward (5-2, 3.94) went for the Hokies against Jay Shadday (2-2, 3.12).
The Jackets wasted no time, with a Craport homer after Bailey led off with a walk to make it 2-0. Shadday gave up a double with two outs to hot hitting Sam Stoffel, but then struck out the ACC home run leader Tom Fragale.
Kyle McCann hit his second home run of the day to make it 3-0 in the 2nd. Meanwhile, Shadday faced the minimum in the 2nd and 3rd, aided by McCann throwing out a steal attempt after a single. The Jackets added a run in their 4th when Poje singled and was bunted to second by Wilhite before Peurifoy singled him in with two outs.
The Hokies battled back in the bottom of the 4th on a leadoff triple by Ryan Tufts and a double by Tom Stoffel to drive him in. It was Stoffel’s sixth hit of the day. Next, Sam Fragale singled and Nick Anderson flied out to score Stoffel from 3rd. After Caples walked, Shadday made a wild throw after a comeback grounder, allowing Fragale to score and Caples to come all the way around, but he was thrown out by Johnson for out two. Freiday moved to second on the play, and Micah Carpenter came in to relieve Shadday and got a ground ball out to preserve a 4-3 lead after four.
Aaron McGarity pitched to Tech in the sixth and seventh in relief, while Carpenter likewise got through the fifth, sixth and seventh with no scoring, surviving a two base throwing error in the seventh.
Zac Ryan came in for Tech in the 8th and faced Stoffel, 7 for 8 on the day, and got him out on a pop up, then got Fragale out. He had two quick outs, but then issued back-to-back walks, bringing up Mundy, pinch hitting for Freiday. He singled in the tying run and next Dauby singled in the go-ahead run. It got worse with Cooper doubling in two runs and Owens singling him in to make it 8-4, all the damage after two outs. The Jackets went down to McGarity in the 9th, despite Craport’s double to make him three for four. McGarity got the win with four innings of shutout relief. Ryan got the loss. The Jackets fell to 5-15 in the ACC, their chances fading.
Saturday: Georgia Tech 6, Virginia Tech 4
Redshirt junior right hander Nick Anderson (5-3, 3.81) faced Keyton Gibson (1-2, 9.19) in a noon game threatened by storms.
Wade Bailey led off with a home run, giving the Jackets an instant lead. His first college homer had come on the same field two years ago. Gibson walked the leadoff batter, but recovered and got out of the first easily after Bart picked off the runner straying from first.
In Tech’s 3rd, Bailey did it again, this time with Peurifoy on first after a single, to make it 3-0. Two batters later, Bart reached on a throwing error, then was driven in by Johnson's double, just as lightning halted play for about an hour and a half. The Hokies relieved Anderson with left handed Packy Naughton, with Anderson moving to DH. With a turf field, light rain should allow play to continue.
After Naughton got out of the inning, Gibson returned to the mound for Tech. He had understandably lost something, as he gave up a single and a two run homer by Matt Dauby to cut the lead in half, then hit two batters and gave up a single to load the bases with one out. Jake Lee relieved Gibson to face Sam Fragale, the ACC’s leading home run hitter. He got a ground ball that couldn't be turned for two, scoring the third run, then a foul pop to Bart to end the inning with a 4-3 lead. The delay had clearly not been a neutral factor.
In the Jackets’ fifth, they got a break when the pitcher got a comeback grounder from Murray with the bases loaded and threw it away trying to get Bart at home. Johnson also scored from second on the play to make it 6-3. After Lee retired the Hokies in their fifth, the game became official. Lee and Naughton both pitched well until the bottom of the 7th, when Lee was relieved by Datoc after giving up a leadoff single on a soft grounder. Jared got a quick double play before giving up two infield singles to put runners on the corners for Stoffel, whom he struck out to keep the lead 6-3 after seven.
In the top of the 8th, right hander Joey Sullivan relieved Naughton with runners on the corners and one out after both Murray and Wilhite had reached on bunt singles. Sullivan had been rocked by the Jackets Friday, giving up three runs without an out recorded. Peurifoy tried to score Murray on a squeeze bunt, but Murray was out at home. After he got Bailey to hit into a ground ball out, the Jackets had failed to gain any insurance.
In the bottom of the 8th, the Hokies put two on with one out, they went to JD Mundy pinch hitting for Freiday, just as yesterday in the 8th when it worked so well for them. Mundy drew a walk on ten pitches to load the bases, far too familiar for the Jackets. With Dauby at bat, Chase Murray made a great catch against the wall in right, saving multiple runs -although one did score – then Datoc coaxed a grounder from Cooper to preserve a 6-4 lead after eight.
Datoc came back in the ninth and the drama was intense as he got a quick out before giving up a single to bring Stoffel up. Jared struck him out, but the home run leader Fragale could tie it with one swing. Instead, he hit a fly ball to right that Coleman Poje caught with a diving catch to seal the win and the series and insure a happy bus ride home. Jake Lee got the win, Anderson the loss, and Datoc his first career save.
The Jackets have dug themselves so deep that a series win alone cannot rescue them. However, it has to start somewhere and their first ACC series win of the season on the road came at a great time. It’s unfortunate that they failed to get the sweep, but stay alive at 20-19 and 6-15 ACC. They now trail the Hokies by two games with a tie breaker and the Irish by two games without the tie breaker. The situation with Pittsburgh and Duke will be resolved head to head after hosting the dwags and the weekend off from ACC play in Chicago. Meanwhile, the Jackets’ pitching staff has had a strong 4-1 week, with several outstanding performances.