Baseball’s start: UCLA upset and more

Photo courtesy of Danny Karnik

The Jackets started off their season two weeks ago with three hard fought games. On Feb. 15, the they won their third straight opening day game against the UIC Flames. In the third inning, junior catcher Kyle McCann hit the first home run of the season as the dugout erupted in cheers. Soon after, junior Tristin English was walked. But he barely had time to take a lead off first base when junior Chase Murray crushed a ball to deep left field to bring them both across home plate. He was quickly followed by sophomore Oscar Serratos, who put a ball far over the fence in right-center. 

When all was said and done, the Jackets finished the inning up 4-0 with three home runs on the season. The Jackets were able to muster two more runs with Tristin English batting in sophmore Luke Waddell in the bottom of the fourth and junior Austin Wilhite bringing in Chase Murray on a sacrifice fly. The Flames stood no chance at a comeback, and the Jackets won 6-3. Junior pitcher Xzavion Curry set a milestone as the first Tech pitcher to win 3 consecutive opening day games, shutting the Flames down with 9 strikeouts through 5 innings pitched. Relief pitcher Brant Hurter came in to strike out all three Flames, ending the sixth. Jonathan Hughes joined to pitch two more innings before Tristin English was pulled off first to close out the game, grabbing the season’s first save.

The next day, the Jackets struggled to wake up and play the Richmond Spiders. Tech were only able to scrape together one run when Austin Wilhite managed to score on a passed ball. Richmond had hot bats and flawless fielding. The Spiders caused Tech to pull starting pitcher freshman Cort Roedig in the second inning of his first start. Richmond had 13 hits against 4 Tech pitchers, and the game ended in a 7-1 loss for Danny Hall’s squad.

Tech went into the second game of the day against West Virginia fighting to regain a winning record. They gathered a strong early lead off the back of junior Connor Thomas in his first start of the season. Thomas amassed ten strikeouts in seven innings on the mound before being relieved by Tristin English. To supplement the defense, Georgia Tech came ready to bat again after the tough loss. Catcher Kyle McCann started everything off with a two-run shot to deep right field to bring in himself and Tristin English in the bottom of the first. In the second, the Jackets were able to string a few hits together to bring in sophomore Colin Hall off a single from sophomore Michael Guldberg. A few silent innings went by before Tristin English scored once again as the Mountaineers made a double play off Oscar Serratos.

As the sixth inning closed, the home team’s 4-0 lead was obliterated immediately by the Mountaineer offense. After three unearned runs, the Jackets managed to get out of the inning, making a bullpen call for Tristin English, who gave up one more in the eighth. With the score at 4-4, a pitchers’ duel brought the game into extra innings. Deep in the eleventh, a few hits fell into place, and junior Nick Wilhite sent Connor Hall home on a walk off single threaded right between third and short. Freshman Luke Bartniki took credit for the win in his first collegiate appearance by striking out a single Mountaineer.

Last week, the Jackets took on No. 3 UCLA. The first game of series was not one to miss. The Bruins got off to a quick start with a one run sacrifice fly. Tech answered with a string of hits. Austin Wilhite brought Kyle McCann home and Guldberg sacrificed himself to bring in Oscar Serratos, giving Tech a 2-1 lead. UCLA picked up an additional run in the top of the fourth which was answered by Waddell in the bottom of the fifth. The Bruins tied the game in the sixth and managed to hold it through the rest of nine innings and bring the game into extra innings. In the tenth, both teams ended the inning with runners in scoring positions as the intensity continued to build. Finally, the entire stadium rose to their feet in the bottom of the eleventh inning as catcher Kyle McCann put a ball way over the head of the center fielder to finish the game 4-3 with a walk-off home run. Curry pitched a stellar five innings and was relieved by Barnicki and Hughes. Finally, English came off first for the last three innings and received credit for the win in the exhilarating upset. The remaining two games lacked the same excitement as the Jackets lost 8-2 and 6-0 respectively.

After two weekends of baseball, batting averages are lower than average due to half the games being against the powerhouse Bruins. As the season progresses, keep an eye out for heavy hitter Kyle McCann, who has already put three balls over the outfield fence while maintaining a .304 average across 23 at-bats. Dual threat player Tristin English has made a name for himself at first base and on the mound. The twin Wilhites are perfect complements on the Jackets roster. Expect Nick to add to the two diving catches he has already racked up in center field. His brother, on the other hand, leads the team in batting with a .350 average across 20 at bats. These players, in combination with one of the strongest rotations in recent memory, put the Jackets in a good place moving forward this season. They face Northwestern this weekend.