It may surprise fans that, with football season still in full gear and basketball season still a few weeks away, there was action on the diamond for Tech. But both the baseball and softball teams for the Jackets have been in action this fall, and the early returns are promising.
The baseball team’s fall schedule is short — just two games. The first was scheduled to go 12 innings and was played this past weekend, versus South Carolina. Much of the game, played in the Gamecocks’ Founders Park, was a pitcher’s duel: after both teams tacked on early runs, the game stood at 3-2 favoring South Carolina entering the ninth. At the top of the ninth, freshman Jadyn Jackson and sophomore Charlie Benson drove in three runs with a pair of singles. But the Gamecocks responded with five of their own at the bottom of the frame. The Jackets would add on a solo home run from senior Paxton Rigby in the tenth, but South Carolina scored two more runs to keep the game from getting any more interesting, putting the final score at 10-6 in favor of the home team.
Neither team played with a true starting pitcher; only one pitcher from each side played more than one full inning. Surrendering most of the damage for the Jackets were Luke Bartnicki and Jackson Finley, who combined to retire just seven batters while allowing eight runs. Given that Bartnicki is a sophomore and Finley a freshman, however, these developments should not be concerning.
Some of Tech’s pitchers did put together excellent performances. Andy Archer and Josiah Siegel put together perfect innings, while Jonathan Hughes, Dalton Smith and Jackson Arnold allowed a single base runner each and pitched scoreless frames. Perhaps the most exciting stat-line belongs to freshman Zach Maxwell. The young arm struck out four batters but also walked four over 1.1 innings, still allowing no runs.
The Jackets struggled a bit at the plate, managing only 9 hits over 45 at bats, but there were a few standouts there as well. Freshman first baseman Drew Compton managed a pair of hits in four plate appearances, driving in a run. Designated hitter Andrew Jenkins recorded two hits in five at-bats and drove in another run.
The softball team has concluded their fall slate already in six games, capping each one with a win. These games have given the Jackets a chance to play some programs Tech rarely faces; for example, the fall season began with a pair of games versus Chipola College, a small university in north Florida. Only once in these seven games have opponents held the Jackets to under 10 runs; although it is worth noting that most of these games lasted longer than the standard seven innings. While Tech played relatively few major opponents, the Jackets did host Auburn, a postseason contender, for a mid-week game that they won 3-2 after seven innings.
There is still a while before baseball and softball season begin in earnest; Tech fans looking for a definitive answer on how Tech will replace the production of Tristin English and where the softball team will see improvement under third-year head coach Aileen Morales will have to wait until the spring. But the appetizer has been served, and it is a tantalizing one indeed.
But if you need one last peek before their winter hibernation, Tech baseball takes on Samford in their final fall game in Atlanta this Saturday, Oct. 26, at 1 p.m.