No. 2 Baseball wins eight straight but falls at KSU

The No. 2 Tech baseball team hit the road for their previous five games and came away with four wins. The four victories and one loss improved Tech’s record to 22-3 overall.

On March 26-28, Tech traveled to Chapel Hill, N.C. to face ACC-rival UNC. North Carolina came into the series ranked No. 17 in the nation at 16-6.

In the series opener on Friday, March 26, Tech barely managed to defeat the Tar Heels 2-1 in a pitchers’ duel. Junior right-hander Deck McGuire made his sixth start for the Jackets. He tied his season high for strikeouts with ten and only allowed one run on six hits in seven innings of work.

UNC’s Matt Harvey also pitched well, allowing three hits and striking out 11 Tech batters. Harvey’s one fault in the performance was his inability to find the strike zone at times, allowing six walks.

The game was tied at one apiece until the top of the seventh inning. Junior designated hitter Thomas Nichols led off with a double and then Harvey’s lack of control got him into trouble. With the bases loaded, Harvey walked junior catcher Cole Leonida, scoring the go-ahead run.

Senior right-hander Andrew Robinson came into to close the game in the ninth and just squeaked out a save. UNC loaded the bases, but a hard line drive was caught by sophomore second baseman Jacob Esch, who then fired the ball to second for the game-ending double play.

After only managing to muster three hits in Friday’s game, Tech broke out the bats in Saturdays game for a 13-5 rout.

Tech wasted no time in scoring on Saturday, with three home runs in the first inning. Junior shortstop Derek Dietrich, senior first baseman Tony Plagman and Leonida hit back-to-back-to-back home runs giving Tech a quick 3-0 lead. The last time Tech hit three consecutive home runs, current MLB superstar Mark Teixiera was playing third base for the Jackets in 2000.

Junior right-hander Brandon Cumpton took the mound for Tech but did not have his best game. Cumpton threw 102 pitches in only 4.1 innings of work and gave up five earned runs.

Pitching with a four-run lead in the fifth inning, Cumpton allowed the Tar Heels to creep within one of the lead before sophomore southpaw Jake Davies came into the game to preserve the 6-5 lead.

Davies pitched 2.1 innings and picked up the win, improving his record to 2-0 as Tech added seven more runs in the later innings.

With their second win in the three-game series, the Jackets clinched the series against North Carolina for the first time since 2006, and the first time in Chapel Hill since 2003.

The Jackets had their eyes on the sweep heading into Sunday’s game against the Tar Heels. The Jackets continued their strong performance at the plate, but UNC’s offense finally woke up. UNC led for most of the game, but Tech rallied to complete the sweep, winning 11-8.

UNC looked poised to win the game in the fourth inning when they scored three runs on four hits off of Tech sophomore lefty Jed Bradley. The four runs gave the Heels a 6-0 lead and ended Bradley’s day early.

Tech trailed 8-3 going into the ninth inning. With two runners on base and two outs, freshman left fielder Brandon Thomas tripled to center, allowing both runners to score. Junior center fielder Jeff Rowland then singled to score Thomas to pull Tech within two runs. Dietrich then swung at the first pitch he saw, driving the ball over the wall for the game-tying homer.

Rowland and Dietrich added RBI singles in the tenth inning to give the Jackets a 11-8 lead and Robinson shut down the Heels, improving his ERA to 0.49.

On Tuesday, March 30, the Jackets traveled to Georgia State to take on the Panthers and the nation’s top-ranked offense.

Sophomore right-hander Mark Pope quelled GSU’s offense, allowing three runs on seven hits in seven innings. Pope baffled the Panther hitters and posted a career-high 13 strikeouts.

The Jackets scored two runs in the first inning thanks to an error by the Panther first baseman. Two more errors by GSU in the second inning would allow Tech to eventually jump out to a 9-0 lead.

Two-run homers by Plagman and Skole in the ninth helped Tech cap the 14-3 victory.

The next day, Tech traveled to Kennesaw State (KSU) and squared off against the 11-16 Owls. Tech jumped out to a quick lead but eventually lost to the Owls 7-4.

In the first inning, Tech struck for two runs when the leadoff man, Rowland, walked and Dietrich hit a homer to deep center.

KSU tied the game in the second inning. With two on and two out, freshman right-hander Luke Bard could not escape the inning unscathed as KSU’s Bucky Smith doubled to score both runners.

Tech retook the lead in the seventh when Owl pitcher Zak Griffith walked the first two batters he faced, and a fielding error scored Esch from second.

Tech’s new lead was also short lived as KSU scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh. Tech pitchers had three wild pitches and three walks. The Owls took a 7-3 lead. Tech tried to mount a comeback in the ninth when Esch, Thomas, and Rowland walked to load the bases. Then Dietrich was hit by a pitch to score one run, but two Tech strikeouts ended the game 7-4.