The Jackets opened the 2018 season facing the school and coach that Danny Hall saw in his first weekend at Russ Chandler in 1994. As in that season that ended in Omaha, the Jackets got a victory over the Gophers, this one a pitcher’s duel that finished 3-2 with no scoring past the fourth inning.
Xzavion Curry, continuing the Friday role he has held since arriving as a Freshman last year, got the win despite giving up four walks and two home runs in five innings. Connor Thomas, beginning his first full season after only playing briefly at the end of last year, got a well earned save with 12 outs while facing 13 batters.
The Gopher pitchers were almost as sharp, with starter Reggie Meyer giving up three runs (two earned) in four innings and Brett Schulze shutting the Jackets out for the final four innings.
Several players who were not with Tech last season contributed both offensively and defensively, including third baseman Luke Waddell, right fielder Baron Radcliff, and first baseman Tristan English (back from arm surgery).
Waddell made several good plays on pop-ups including one he caught reaching over the fence and generally solidified his position as a starter. Radcliff got a key single on his first collegiate at-bat, moving English into scoring position for Kel Johnson’s RBI groundout.
English both scored the team’s first run and drove in the second with his first hit since the 2016 season. He played a solid first base. Kel Johnson scored the winning run after reaching on an error in the fourth and coming in on Nick Wilhite’s RBI sacrifice fly to deep center. His twin brother Austin Wilhite went three for four at the plate.
All the Gopher offense came from the powerful bat of Jordan Kozicky, who hit blasts over the left field fence in his first two at-bats, the second hitting high on the John and Mary Brock practice facility.
Curry adjusted on Kozicky’s third at-bat, however, and struck him out, while Thomas got the slugger to hit into a key double play in the eighth The first two batters singled in that inning, but Thomas picked the first off and eliminated the second on the aforementioned double play.
In the Minnesota ninth, Thomas worked around a tough error by Wade Bailey by striking out three of his five total K’s. The Jackets out hit the Gophers 8-5 and each team committed one error. Connor Thomas was named the player of the game by the broadcast crew for his first career save with a personal high in strikeouts. Tech improved to 24-1 on home openers under Coach Hall.
Weather permitting, Tech faces Bradley Saturday while Minnesota plays a double header at Kennesaw State.