These two teams have played three previous series, two in Atlanta and one other in Chicago, the last in 2011. This year’s Flames hosted the Jackets sporting a fine 28-9 record and lead the Horizon League with a 16-3 conference record. The have been 9-1 in their last 10 games, including a six game home winning streak. The only common opponent is Youngstown State, who were swept by the Flames and lost two out of three to the Jackets. Clearly, they represented no kind of easy series for the struggling Jackets. The series schedule was adjusted and curtailed at two games due to weather concerns and Jay Shadday didn't make the trip due to elbow trouble.
Friday: Georgia Tech 3, Illinois-Chicago 0 (Game 1)
Xzavion Curry (4-4, 5.71) pitched against Reid Birlingmair (5-2, 2.87), a right handed sophomore. The pitching for this game and the second were reversed due to UIC finals.
After a leadoff double by Bailey was squandered by the Jackets in the 1st, Curry worked around a walk with two strikeouts and a fly ball. The Jackets likewise accomplished nothing with two leadoff walks in the 2nd. It took until the 3rd for the Jackets to score, with a one out solo home run down the left field line by Craport. Curry retired the Flames despite hitting a batter and giving up his first hit to keep it 1-0 after three. He likewise was aided by a double play to retire UIC in the bottom of the 4th.
Peurifoy led off the Tech 5th with a solo home run to make it a 2-0 lead, despite the Jackets being 0 for 10 with runners on base. After Curry got through the bottom of the 5th, Charlie Cerny relieved Birlingmair. Curry gave up his third and fourth singles after two outs in the 6th, but kept the shutout going with a fly ball for out three. He had his second consecutive “quality start.”
UIC brought in Mitchell Schulewitz to face Tech in the 7th. Tech finally got a hit with a runner in scoring position when Johnson drove in Bailey from second with two outs to make it 3-0. Curry came back for the Flames’ 7th with a pitch count of 82 and easily recorded three outs to set his personal collegiate record with seven full innings.
Connor Ryan pitched to the Jackets in the 8th without damage and Curry likewise got through the bottom of the inning on 111 pitches total. Alex Padilla pitched for the Flames in the 9th and retired the Jackets, setting up Jared Datoc to close it out for Curry. He did so and earned his second save with two groundouts and a strikeout. What a pitching gem, Tech’s third shutout along with Oklahoma and Georgia State. Curry got the win, Birlingmair the loss.
Friday: Illinois-Chicago 1, Georgia Tech 0 (Game 2)
Keyton Gibson (1-2, 9.50) got the start for Tech versus left handed senior Jake Dahlberg (7-1, 2.32).
There was little action until the UIC 2nd, when a walk and single put runners on the corners with two outs, but Gibson coaxed a grounder to Bailey to preserve a scoreless tie. It was still scoreless when the Jackets got their first hit off Dahlberg in the 5th, but he was eliminated caught stealing. Gibson had so far kept pace, though not as easily. In the Flames’ 5th, he gave up two singles, but pitched out of it. After a 1-2-3 sixth, Keyton had his own “quality start.” There have not been very many of those for the 2017 Jackets.
Tech’s best opportunity came after Johnson hit a double with one out in their 7th, but Dahlberg escaped damage. Gibson got a second straight 1-2-3 inning for the bottom of the 7th, as tension built.
After Dahlberg retired the Jackets in the top of the 8th, Micah Carpenter relieved Gibson for the bottom. Keyton had shown why he was a weekend starter back in February. Carpenter retired the Flames to bring the 9th inning. And Dahlberg was finally done, with Connor Ryan coming in. He had pitched a scoreless inning in the first game. Ever aggressive Wade Bailey led off with a single but ran into the first out at second base. To add insult, Craport drew Ryan’s first walk of the season and moved to third with two outs on Johnson's second double, but they both were stranded.
With one out in the bottom of the 9th, Calabrese hit a double for UIC and Zac Ryan came in to pitch. He got a ground ball out two that moved the runner to third before a walk-off wild pitch ended the game 1-0. Carpenter was charged with the loss, Connor Ryan got the win.
For the second week in a row, the Jackets missed a sweep due to problems with the closest person to a closer the team has. I don’t want to call out anybody, and the Jackets certainly could have scored more to avoid the losses, but the team really needs somebody with that closer ice-water blood. After a nice long break, it’s back to ACC action with a chance to pass Pittsburgh at home.