The Jackets baseball team was blanked in the final two games of the NCAA Athens regional against state rival UGA and has been eliminated from the NCAA tournament. In the two games, the Jackets were out hit, out pitched and looked overmatched at times.
In Sunday’s game, the Jackets’ bats fell short and the pitching staff was incapable of stopping the opponent from scoring. Tech managed just four hits while striking out nine times.
“I just hope that Nick Montgomery can’t pitch tomorrow. He’s pitched against us twice, he’s their Deck McGuire. We haven’t been able to do anything with him,” said Danny Hall, head coach of the Jackets.
The Bulldogs pounded a two-run homer in the third inning. Then in the fourth, Eddie Burns escaped from a bases loaded situation, allowing only one runner to score. The Bulldogs hit two more home runs during the game. Georgia scored eight runs to Tech’s zero in the rout.
“I felt like we came out tonight, a little flat. I want to give [Montgomery] a lot of credit, he threw very well against us,” said Charlie Blackmon the Jackets’ right fielder.
Blackmon led the Jackets with two hits. Tech seemed to be on top of a rally in the third with a lead-off single by Thomas Nichols. The team managed to get two runners in scoring position but a strike-out by Jeff Rowland stopped the rally.
With the loss, Monday night’s game became a winner-take-all elimination match for a trip to the Super Regional round against N.C. State.
The game began with a free-fall of hitting from both teams. In fact, the Jackets mustered five hits and five runs in a long, drawn-out first inning. Both starting pitchers were relieved of their duties in the first as well. Reliever Brandon Cumpton could not keep the Bulldogs’ offense in check and allowed the opponent to take the lead in a three run second that followed Georgia’s three run first.
“We didn’t play a championship level of play tonight; I take full responsibility for that…I’m very proud of my team and everything we went through this year,” Hall said.
As the Bulldogs continue to score more runs throughout the game, the Jackets attempted to keep up to speed. Jeff Rowland scored in the fourth after reaching on fielder’s choice, stealing for the 22nd time of the season and taking advantage of a throwing error. That was the last time a Jacket would cross home plate.
Much of the Bulldogs’ 18 runs can be attributed to the six errors committed by the visiting team. Tech came into the final game as the only team in the regional to not have a defensive error, but that changed quickly.
“It seemed like, defensively, we just kept breaking down, inning after inning. We didn’t pick the ball up, didn’t catch it, didn’t throw it. I honestly thought we had seven errors, I think they missed one somewhere,” Hall said.
Tech played in the NCAA Tournament for the 24th time in school history and finished the season with 40-plus wins. Blackmon has successfully hit in each of the last twelve games.
The Jackets provided a promising start to the beginning of their NCAA Tournament play. The wins over Louisville and Lipscomb stretched out another 40+ win season for the Jackets.
The offense was led by Charlie Blackmon and Jason Haniger. Blackmon continued his hot hitting streak with three hits while Haniger blasted a two-run homer as well as scoring three runs.
“This was a great way for us to start the [NCAA] Tournament, to get some runs early. We felt good about it…I am proud of the way our guys played, the way they battled,” Hall said.
The Jackets took an early lead in the first inning. Blackmon was able to score on a sacrifice fly from Luke Murton. The right fielder reached base with a walk and eventually reached third after a wild pitch and a stolen base. The Jackets put an additional run on the scoreboard in the second. The rally started with a single by Haniger. Blackmon provided a crucial single with the bases loaded to drive in a run.
David Duncan kept the opponent scoreless for the first five innings while only allowing four hits. The starter was relieved of his duties after giving up the lead in the sixth. Andrew Robinson entered to put a stop to the opponents’ scoring.
“I’m proud of our bullpen tonight…Robinson and Rulon did a great job of dealing with [adversity]. Especially in the ninth inning, giving up two first hits, we got through that,” said Jason Haniger, the starting catcher.
The Jackets were able to keep pace on scoring. The bases were loaded in the sixth due to Tony Plagman being hit by the pitch, Haniger hitting a single, and a walk by Patrick Long. Blackmon then stepped up to the plate and hit a liner to allow Tech to take the lead. Robinson followed with a scoreless seventh inning. Later, Haniger added to the lead with a home-run blast. The Jackets added another run in the eighth when Chase Burnette scored from second on a sacrifice fly by Murton.
On Saturday, the Jackets became eligible for the regional championship when they advanced with a win against Lipscomb. Brad Feltes guided the Jackets to a win with a two-out double in the eighth.
“I was trying to take the first pitch, get a good look at [Tognazzi], find out how he was throwing and what angles he was throwing at…I didn’t want to get too far down in the count and he threw me a pitch I was able to hit in the gap,” said Brad Feltes, the third-baseman. Feltes went 2-3 and had two RBI in the game.
The Jackets seemed to score heavily when they earned the chance. After producing three runs in the second, they were retired in 16 out of 17 at-bats by opposition pitching before Feltes’ key double. The double by Feltes put him just two shy of tying the school season record.
“We never breathed easy until we saw Rowland catch the last out in center field…to their credit they battled back and got back in the game…When Feltes came up to the plate, there’s probably not a guy that I’d rather see up there at the plate. He’s been clutch all year.” Hall said. Three pitchers, Deck McGuire, Taylor Wood and Brad Rulon, combined for eight strike outs and only allowed seven hits.
Wood (3-0) earned the win after pitching 0.2 scoreless innings, striking out one. Rulon secured his seventh save of the season and second in as many games, the right hander allowed one hit and had one strike out in 1.2 innings against the Bison.