In their second weekend series of the season, the Jackets welcomed the Xavier Musketeers to Russ Chandler Stadium. Tech was undefeated coming into the series, but were only able to win two of the three games against Xavier.
Junior right-hander Deck McGuire took the mound on Friday, Feb. 26 and pitched well in only his second start of the season. Through the first three innings, McGuire only allowed two singles and had two strikeouts, including a three-pitch strikeout to end the first inning.
McGuire ran into trouble in the top of the fourth inning when he walked Drew Schmidt to lead off the inning. Ben Thomas then delivered a double to give the Musketeers two runners in scoring position with only one out. A ground out scored Schmidt from third, but McGuire was able to avoid a huge inning by getting another ground out to end the inning.
Junior shortstop Derek Dietrich led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a single. Xavier pitcher Nate Mutsch then hit senior first baseman Tony Plagman with a pitch giving the Jackets two runners on base with no outs.
Junior right fielder Chase Burnette singled to left, scoring Dietrich. Sophomore third baseman Matt Skole then hit a sac-fly to score Plagman from third. Mutsch then hit another Jacket, junior catcher Cole Leonida, and junior designated hitter Thomas Nichols doubled to deep center field scoring Leonida and giving the Jackets a 3-1 lead.
McGuire tight roped out of a huge inning again in the sixth. Thomas hit a sacrifice fly ball after two singles to score one run for Xavier, and Ryan Bellamy added another RBI single to tie the game. Xavier had a chance to take the lead with runners on base but McGuire managed to get a full count strikeout to end the inning.
“[McGuire] pitched out of trouble today. I wouldn’t say he had his best day, but he kept us in the game and did his job,” said Head Coach Danny Hall.
Sophomore second baseman Jacob Esch hit an RBI double in the seventh inning to retake the lead, but Xavier tied the game again the eighth with one run off of three different Tech pitchers.
Burnette doubled in the bottom of the eighth inning and Leonida drove him in with a single to give Tech the lead going into the ninth.
Junior pitcher Kevin Jacob came in to close out the game and gave up a leadoff single to start the inning. Two more Musketeers followed quickly on base. Just when it looked like Tech would blow the lead, Jacob got a huge strikeout for the first out in the inning.
With the bases still loaded, Xavier left fielder Bobby Freking hit a liner back up the middle that hit off Jacob’s leg and bounced to Dietrich. The shortstop fired the ball to second for one out and Esch threw it to first for a game-ending double play.
“We were lucky to win. I don’t think we played very well [and] I don’t think we pitched [well] enough,” Hall said.
On Saturday, Feb. 27, junior right-hander Brandon Cumpton took the mound for the Jackets for the second game of the Xavier series. Cumpton shut down the Musketeers allowing only one hit in seven shutout innings.
Tech had a huge day offensively en route to a 15-0 win. Tech had 15 hits in the game compared to the Musketeers’ two, and five of those hits were home runs.
Skole was the first Jacket to hit a homer in the game, and it came in the third inning. It was only a solo homer but it gave the Jackets a commanding 4-0 lead. Skole finished the day 3-for-4.
Junior center fielder Jeff Rowland hit another home run for Tech in the bottom of the fifth to make it 5-0. It was his second homer of the season.
Tech was already in control of the game thanks to their offensive output and Cumpton’s work on the mound, but they still tacked on 10 runs in the sixth inning. Dietrich and Esch both hit two-run homers in the inning to fuel the big inning.
“Jacob [Esch] is a good player and is playing real well. I thought he made a couple of real nice plays defensively today. I’m happy for him; he had to sit and watch a lot last year and is getting a chance to play now and is taking advantage of it,” Hall said, courtesy of ramblinwreck.com.
Senior second baseman Jason Garofalo added a home run later in the game and freshmen pitchers Luke Bard and Clay Dalton did not allow Xavier to score in the final two innings giving Tech a comfortable win.
After losing the first two games of the series, Xavier handed Tech their first loss of the season 7-6.
Tech looked like they were in control of the game early when Plagman hit a two-run homer to right-center, but Xavier answered in the second inning with an RBI ground-rule double by Phil Bauer.
Garofalo extended his hot streak by singling to left field in the bottom of the third to score Dietrich from third base.
Garofalo later scored a run in the fifth inning to give the Jackets a 4-2 lead.
Tech’s starting pitcher sophomore Jed Bradley allowed Xavier to get the bases loaded with no outs to start the sixth inning. Hall elected to pull Bradley and dive into his bullpen, but Xavier scored four runs on four hits off of four different Tech pitchers.
Leonida hit a homer for the Jackets in the seventh inning, cutting Xavier’s lead to one, but Tech was never able to re-gain the lead.
Tech was scheduled to host Western Carolina on Tuesday, March 2, but the game was postponed due to bad weather. As of Wednesday, March 3, no make up game has been announced.