Another midweek game for the Jackets meant another outstanding performance by freshman pitcher Ben Parr.
Parr pitched six innings, striking out seven batters without allowing a run, leading Tech to a 4-1 victory over The University of Georgia. The win evened out the series to one apiece after UGA took the series opener earlier this season in Athens. The Jackets have now won nine of their last ten games and sit at sixth in the ACC baseball standings.
“Ben pitched outstanding. I think he kept them off balance, threw a lot of strikes,” said Tech Head Coach Danny Hall. “To go six innings against a very good team, couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Parr began the season coming out of the bullpen for the Jackets, where he struggled. In five relief appearances, Parr pitched only 2.1 innings and allowed three earned runs. In his five midweek starts since taking over that role, Parr has a 4-1 record, 27 strikeouts and an ERA of just 1.30.
“He struggled when we pitched him in relief, but he’s been outstanding when we’ve started him,” Hall said. “He just seems to be a lot more comfortable starting games. He knows exactly when he’s going to pitch and he’s in a routine. He is a very smart guy. He throws strikes with three different pitches, will throw all three at any count and he’s hard to hit. He’s been outstanding.”
Tech also continued the trend of scoring in the first inning. After scoring in the first inning of all three games against Florida State last weekend, the Jackets put three runs on the board in the bottom half of the first against UGA on Tuesday. The Jackets averaged 3.25 runs in the first inning across those four games.
“Jumped on them early. Anytime you can put a crooked number up there in the first inning, it makes it a lot harder for that other team to come back into the game,” Hall said. “The three runs in the first inning were huge. We’ve been able to score runs in that first inning, and all but one of them we’ve been able to make it hold up. That’s a good thing. Like I said, if you can score first, it makes it much harder for the team to get back in the game.”
Although Tech’s first run came on an RBI double by sophomore left fielder Matt Gonzalez, the Jackets’ three run first inning was heavily aided by UGA starting pitcher Patrick Boiling’s control issues. In just 0.2 innings, Boiling walked three Tech batters and hit one with a pitch. Two of the walks were with the bases loaded, giving Tech their second and third runs of the inning.
Freshman shortstop and reigning ACC Player of the Week Connor Justus continued to produce at the plate, going 1-2 with two walks and an RBI. Even with reaching base three times in his four plate appearances, Justus may have had a better night in the field than he had at the plate. Justus has now played 21 straight games without committing an error.
“Connor is a good player. He made some really tough plays at shortstop. Wasn’t an easy night to play defense. I was more impressed with the way he played defense than anything else. I think he did a great job,” Hall said.
Parr allowed a runner to reach in five of his six innings, but only allowed one base runner to reach second base. After Parr struck out catcher Zack Bowers to leadoff the second inning for UGA, first baseman Daniel Nichols hit a double for UGA’s first hit of the night. Parr struck out the next two batters to escape the inning and stranding Nichols on second.
In the top of the fourth with one out in the inning, catcher Zach Bowers hit a ball to the gap in right-center and attempted to stretch the hit into a double. Junior center fielder Daniel Spingola was able to cut it off before it reached the fence and gunned Bowers down at second base for Tech’s NCAA leading seventeenth outfield assist of the season.
Spingola also had a nice day at the plate, going 2-5 with a run. With his first inning single, Spingola has reached base in the first inning four straight games and leads Tech in batting average at .333. Senior catcher Mitch Earnest got the start at catcher over freshman Arden Pabst and went 1-2 with a walk.
Tech had a golden opportunity to add on to their lead in the bottom of the fourth, but saw that opportunity diminish by poor base running. Freshman right fielder Ryan Peuriofy led the inning off with what initially appeared to be a routine fly ball, but with the wind blowing out strong to right field, the ball hit off the very top of the fence and resulted in a triple. Mitch Earnest followed that up with a groundball to the third baseman, and Peurifoy became an easy out for the Bulldogs when he decided to take off towards home.
The Jackets did, however, extend their lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single up the middle by senior second baseman Mott Hyde. Hyde drove in Earnest, who reached base on a single and then advanced to second on a wild pitch by relief pitcher Pete Nagel.
The trio of freshman Tanner Shelton, freshman Ollie Schniederjans and senior Dusty Isaacs combined for three innings of one run ball while allowing only one hit out of the bullpen for the Jackets. The run came in the bottom of the eighth against Schniederjans. After UGA second baseman Mike Bell led the inning off with a double, third baseman Hunter Cole drove him in on a groundout third for UGA’s first and only run of the night. Allowing only one run, Tech has now gone 18 straight games holding opponents to five runs or less.
“Schniederjans did a nice job. They hit a double and then got him to third. I can’t remember how they scored, but just to give up one run there after giving up a leadoff double, I though was very good,” Hall said. “I thought Shelton was really good tonight. We wanted him to go against those three lefties and he did an outstanding job.”
Isaacs picked up his fourth save of the season after getting the Bulldogs to go down in order in the ninth. It was a big save for the senior, who gave up the game winning hit in the bottom of the ninth in the 1-0 loss to UGA earlier this season. Shelton pitched one inning and did not allow a hit while striking out two.
The Jackets head north this weekend for a three game series against Maryland. The Terps are currently 21-13 (7-10 ACC) and have the fourth best team ERA in the ACC at 3.14. Maryland has lost their last two ACC series, taking only one of three games against Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
“Their Friday and Saturday guys are both outstanding,” Hall said. “Their Friday guy I know a lot of people project him as a first round pick, and their Saturday guy is a freshman that seems like people are having a tough time hitting. So I think they have two really good pitchers right out of the gate. They’re very similar to us as far as what their record is and where they are in the league. This is an important weekend for us.”