Photo by John Nakano

After a strong 3-1 start to their 2015 campaign, the Georgia Tech baseball team went 2-2 on their latest road trip. The 28th ranked Yellow Jackets began the weekend’s 16th annual Caravelle Resort’s Baseball at the Beach in Conway, SC by scoring 8 runs in the 9th inning to defeat #23 Florida International University 16-9 under light rain, highlighted by A.J. Murray’s second career grand slam. The senior designated hitter went 3-for-5 with a career high 6 RBI and 4 runs scored, as his ninth inning heroics put the Jackets up 14-9.

FIU turned in a 3-run 7th inning to lead 9-8 going into the 9th, but Tech tied the game after senior first baseman Thomas Smith has hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

Sophomore catcher Arden Pabst added 2 RBI on 2-for-4 hitting (both doubles) and sophomore shortstop Connor Justus went 2-for-5 with 2 RBI as well. Freshman phenom right fielder Kel Johnson extended his hitting streak to 5 games with a double off the wall in the 2nd inning.

Junior southpaw Jonathan King gave up 5 runs on 5 hits with 2 strikeouts in 5 innings and gave the bullpen a 7-5 lead. After sophomore Zac Ryan gave up four runs in relief of King. Sophomore lefty Tanner Shelton came in and pitched 2.1 innings of scoreless ball to earn his first career win.

The second game of the day matched the Yellow Jackets up against the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina University. As the rain wouldn’t let up, CCU used a 7-run 5th inning to defeat Tech 7-5. Sophomore lefty Ben Parr was charged with the loss, as he allowed 6 runs (5 earned) in the 5th inning after 4 blank frames to start the game. The Jackets led 2-0 before Parr’s 5th inning troubles, which weren’t helped by him walking 6 batters and giving up two home runs.

“It was a tough day (weather-wise)…It made it a little difficult to pitch, but it really made it hard on ground balls,” said head coach Danny Hall, courtesy of ramblinwreck.com. “We made a few uncharacteristic errors and they ended up costing us…Give Coastal credit. That seven-run inning is hard to overcome.”

Johnson was able to extend his hitting streak to 6 games, as he went 2-for-4 with 2 RBI and a solo homer in the first inning. After his RBI groundout cut the lead down to 7-5, Tech wasn’t able to take further advantage of their scoring opportunity and stranded 2 runners in scoring position.

Danny Hall’s men rebounded in style on Sunday with a walk-off 9-8 win over Albany, courtesy of Pabst’s 3-run 9th inning home run. Tech again took the first lead with a 3-run 1st inning, but another big inning given up by a Tech pitcher- this time a 6-run 2nd inning by senior lefty Devin Stanton- had the skipper going to his bullpen early once again. This time, sophomore third baseman/pitcher Brandon Gold hurled a career-high 5.1 strong innings of relief, striking out 4 while scattering 2 runs on 5 hits.

“That was a great comeback win and a great swing from Arden Pabst,” said Hall, courtesy of ramblinwreck.com. “We did some good things there to win the game, certainly in the ninth inning. I was very impressed by Gold on the mound. He gave us some crucial innings.”

Trailing 8-6 going to the bottom of the 9th, sophomore Keenan Innis reached on a one-out error, followed by a pinch-hit walk by freshman Daniel Gooden. Pabst then stepped up and wasted no time, crushing his first pitch over the wall to send the Yellow Jackets home happy.

Sophomore Matt Phillips was credited with the win, as he came on in relief of freshman Patrick Wiseman, who gave up 2 hits to open the top of the 9th. Senior righty Cole Pitts who had Tommy John surgery in the offseason, pitched a 1-2-3 8th inning with 2 strikeouts in his first game back. Innis got the start in left field and went 2-for-4 with 2 doubles and 2 RBI, while Johnson extended his hitting streak to 7 games with an RBI single in 2nd inning.

After a day off, Tech traveled to Alabama to take on the Tigers of Auburn in the first leg of a home-and-home and the first matchup between the two teams since 2005. The Yellow Jackets were unlucky to run into Auburn ace Keegan Thompson, a freshman All-American, who gave up only 1 run in 7 innings and struck out 9 Jackets. Sophomore righty Ben Schniederjans (younger brother of senior Tech golf star Ollie Schniederjans) was dealt the loss, lasting only 4 innings after allowing 4 runs on 7 hits and 4 walks.

“[Keegan Thompson] is very good and he over-matched us tonight; he commanded everything well,” said Hall. “But we banged into two double plays with guys on, and we had lead-off guys in the first and second. So you have to credit him (Thompson), he was able to get out of those situations.”

No Tech hitter had more than 1 hit and Pabst scored the team’s lone run after doubling in the 6th. Smith extended his hitting streak to 6 games, but Johnson’s 7 game streak was ended by the Tigers pitchers.

The offense has had no trouble producing runs (except for the Auburn game), averaging 9.4 runs a game (10.8 before Auburn), but the pitching has been a struggle so far. Tech pitchers have allowed 6.5 runs a game, 5 or more runs in more than half of the games, and less than 4 runs only once (3 against St. John’s on Opening Day). It doesn’t come as a complete surprise though, as the team lost pitchers Sam Clay, “Trusty” Dusty Isaacs, Jonathan Roberts, and Matt Grimes in the offseason. King and Pitts are also coming off tough season-ending injuries from last year. Predictably given those numbers and facts, Tech has trailed in every game this season and all 5 of Tech’s wins have had to be comeback victories.

“We’ve got to bounce back with a big series at home this weekend against Indiana State,” concluded Hall. The Sycamores come to Atlanta this weekend, with the first game on Friday at 4pm. Tech’s Wednesday game against Georgia State was cancelled due to the threat of inclement weather.