Baseball splits two with Ga. Southern

The cold temperatures on Tuesday night could not keep senior Luke Murton and the baseball team from getting red hot, as Murton knocked two home runs and the No. 8 Jackets (20-7) beat the Georgia Southern Eagles 8-4 at Russ Chandler Stadium. Tech was unable to continue the good hitting the following day, though, giving up 19 runs over the final three innings and losing to Georgia Southern 23-3.

Georgia Southern (22-8) was able to strike quickly on Tuesday night. RBI singles by Griffin Benedict and Eric Phillips gave the Eagles a 2-0 lead after two innings. Meanwhile, Tech’s bats were cold through the first three innings. Southern’s starting pitcher, Michael Hester, consistently mixed in good off-speed pitches to keep the Jackets off balance and cause many ground balls.

“[Hester] wasn’t throwing that hard, and he kind of had us all out in front .… We had to see the guy maybe one time through the order just to see how he was going to pitch us. But I felt like we did make better adjustments as the game went on,” Head Coach Danny Hall said.

Hall’s impression was right: after one time through the order, things did begin to get a little easier for Tech. Murton hit the first of his two home runs, a deep solo shot that cut Southern’s lead in half and got the Tech bats rolling.

The rest of the Jackets followed Murton’s example in the fifth inning when, with two outs and nobody on, sophomore shortstop Derek Dietrich clocked a high shot that got caught up in the strong wind current blowing down the right field line. The ball carried over the right fielder’s head, and Dietrich made it all the way to third base. Senior Jason Haniger then hit a sharp single to left field that brought in Dietrich.

The next batter, senior first baseman Tony Plagman, drew a walk to put Haniger in scoring position. Murton then came to the plate and connected on his second home run; unlike Dietrich’s hit earlier, though, this one was against the wind but still carried over the left field fence to bring Murton’s RBI total to four on the night.

“[Murton’s] been on fire of late. [He’s] been hitting a lot of home runs. I hope he continues for the rest of the year. But he’s given us a big lift,” Hall said of Murton, who has seven homers over the past seven games.

Tech sophomore starter Brandon Cumpton had a solid outing, limiting Southern to two runs on eight hits over five and one third innings while striking out six. The bullpen also looked sharp, as junior Andrew Robinson relieved Cumpton in the sixth and pitched 2.2 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits.

“Cumpton gave up a couple runs early, but I thought he really settled down and pitched [well], and then I thought Robinson was outstanding,” Hall said.

Georgia Southern was able to rebound on Wednesday afternoon as the Jackets never found their offensive groove. Southern got an early 2-0 lead after Tech starter Jed Bradley’s wild pitch in the top of the first inning, but Tech came right back to score a run on Dietrich’s RBI single a half inning later. However, Tech would plate only two more runs, as Southern’s starter Andy Moye allowed two runs over four innings and four relief pitchers limited Tech to three hits and one run over the rest of the game.

Tech’s relievers struggled mightily toward the end of the game. With the score 4-2 in the Eagles’ favor after six innings, a grand slam by Southern’s Ty Wright powered a massive rally for the visitors over the final three innings. Tech gave up seven runs in the seventh inning, one in the eighth, and eleven in the ninth, and the Jackets fell 23-3 to split the season series with the Eagles.

The Jackets look to rebound when they return to action tonight, hosting the No. 14 Virginia Commodores in the first game of a three-game weekend series. On Tuesday, Tech will travel to Athens to battle Georgia in the teams’ first meeting of the season.