Coming off a long homestand, the No. 10 baseball team took on two in-state opponents this week, playing midweek games at top-ranked Georgia and Georgia State. Tech won both games comfortably, taking down the Bulldogs 11-6 and beating the Panthers 18-2 to improve to 22-8-1 on the season.
Against Georgia, the Jackets’ offense wasted no time as they scoring two runs in the top of the first on a homer by senior catcher Jason Haniger. They added three more an inning later, two on a triple by junior center fielder Jeff Rowland and the third on a sacrifice fly by sophomore shortstop Derek Dietrich. Michael Demperio responded for UGA in the bottom of the second with a two-run shot, but Tech sophomore catcher Cole Leonida hit a three-run home run in the top of the third to give the Jackets an 8-2 lead.
After two scoreless innings, junior first baseman Tony Plagman extended the Jackets’ lead with an RBI single in the top of the sixth. UGA answered with one of their own in the bottom of the inning on a solo shot by Joey Lewis, putting the score at 9-3.
UGA cut the lead down to four in the seventh inning, adding one on a solo homer by freshman Levi Hyams and another on an RBI single from senior Bryce Massanari. The Jackets then hailed freshman Jake Davies from the bullpen, who struck out two to end the inning.
After UGA stranded two runners in the bottom of the eighth, Tech’s Matt Skole hit a two-run home run in the top of the ninth to put the score at 11-5 in favor of the Jackets. The Bulldogs followed with a homer from Massanari in the bottom half of the inning, but they were unable to overcome the remaining five run deficit, giving the Jackets the victory.
This was a big win for the Jackets, as they have not beaten a top-ranked team since taking down Florida State in 2003.
â€œGeorgia was ranked No. 1 coming in here, so any time you come in here and beat a very good team like Georgia it gives your team confidence,â€ said Tech Head Coach Danny Hall in an interview with ramblinwreck.com. â€œThis is a step in the right direction, for us to go on the road and beat a ranked opponent.â€
Following their win in Athens, the Jackets headed to downtown Atlanta on Wednesday to take the field against Georgia State as they looked to avenge the Panthers’ 10-1 victory at Russ Chandler Stadium on March 24.
Kevin Jacob took the mound for Tech, and the junior right-hander pitched five strong innings, recording a career-high eight strikeouts while giving up just five hits on his way to his fifth win of the season. The game started off well for the Jackets, who rallied to score 11 runs in the second inning and put the game away early. The onslaught opened when Plagman was hit by a pitch; after three walks and an RBI double by senior outfielder Chris House, freshman Evan Martin hit a three-run homer, his first of the season. A double, a single, a sacrifice fly, and another single gave the Jackets five more, pushing the score to 11-0 by the end of the frame.
This early lead proved too much for the Panthers, who only put two runs on the board the entire game.
â€œScoring 11 runs in an inning means that things are going well,â€ Hall said. â€œWe were happy to get that tonight, since we struggled against their starter last time.â€
Tech scattered seven more runs over the last six innings, including five in the top of the ninth. Sophomore Thomas Nichols provided two on a double, and freshman infielder Connor Winn followed with his first career homer, a two-run shot that gave the Jackets a 17-2 lead. A fielding error allowed Leonida to score, giving Tech the 18-2 lead that ended up being the final score.
Haniger was recently named a finalist for the Loew’s Senior Class Award, which is given to an oustanding senior in nine different NCAA Division-I sports. Fans can vote daily for the senior catcher online at www.seniorclassaward.com.