Baseball drops opener, rebounds with four wins

The Jackets recovered from a sobering loss in the opening game of the season to begin the year with a 4-1 record. Tech played in back-to-back double headers last Friday and Saturday against Winthrop and Kent State, then faced Georgia Southern in a single game on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

On opening day, Tech faced Kent State in the first game of a doubleheader. Kent State defeated the Jackets in a 5-0 shutout after taking the lead on an unearned run in the first.

Junior pitcher Buck Farmer pitched six innings and allowed only two earned runs and a walk while delivering nine strikeouts, but lost the matchup against Kent State starter David Starn. Starn pitched eight full innings and provided nine strikeouts.

The Jackets’ offense never ignited, managing only four singles and two walks. Defensively, Tech committed two errors.

The Golden Flashes put two more runs on the board in the top of the third with two back-to-back RBI’s and added two more insurance runs in the eighth and ninth. The Jackets had the chance to score a run in the second, when sophomore first baseman Daniel Palka was hit by a pitch and sophomore catcher Zane Evans hit a single. Starn was able to recover when Palka was picked off at third by catcher David Lyon.

The Jackets returned to the field in the evening to face Winthrop. This time, the Jackets took the win in the second 5-0 shutout of the day. The Jackets took the lead early in the top of the first, when sophomore center fielder Kyle Wren led the game off with a double, stole third and came home on a wild pitch by pitcher Matt Piermont. Later in the inning, with the bases loaded, sophomore right fielder Paul Kronenfeld hit a RBI single to drive in the second run of the game.

Sophomore pitcher Matthew Grimes pitched seven one-hit innings with seven strikeouts. Evans took the mound in relief in the eighth inning and retired six batters straight, four by strikeout.

Sophomore catcher Mitch Earnest provided Evans with two insurance runs on a single in the eighth and senior designated hitter Jake Davies provided another RBI in the ninth to bring in the final run of the game.

Tech took the field against Kent State again on Saturday. This time, the Jackets defeated the Golden Flashes 6-2. Sophomore pitcher Dusty Isaacs took the mound and pitched seven innings, allowing five hits and one earned run. Junior closer Luke Bard took over in the eighth and finished out the game, allowing three hits, but no runs.

Palka had a hot bat this game, scoring four runs on three hits and getting one RBI and a home run, a solo shot over the right wall to lead off the eighth inning. Kronenfeld got two hits and knocked in three runners. Evans returned to his spot at catcher, and scored one run with a hit and an RBI on the day.

Due to expected inclement weather, the Sunday game against Winthrop was scheduled to be played Saturday evening. The Jackets won their third straight game and the second game of the second double header in two days.

Sophomore pitcher DeAndre Smelter started the game, but lasted only four innings after allowing five hits and two earned runs. Freshman pitcher Cole Pitts came in in relief to earn the win, and Evans earned the first save of his career.

Offensively, the game went back and forth, with the Jackets taking an early lead on a Palka RBI double after Wren walked to lead off the game. Winthrop quickly answered with a run in the bottom of the first. Tech took the lead again in the second, when senior shortstop Conner Winn scored on a sacrifice fly.

Winthrop came even with the Jackets again in the bottom of the third, and the game stayed at a standstill until the seventh. Earnest doubled to left and scored on a single by junior left fielder Brandon Thomas, who was brought home by junior second baseman Sam Dove.

Tech defeated Georgia Southern in a high scoring 11-9 battle. Southern began the scoring in the bottom of the first when center fielder Scooter Williams scored as the Jackets turned a double play to earn the first two outs of the inning.  In the top of the third, Thomas put Tech on the board by slugging one over the right center wall to drive in Wren and sophomore third baseman Chase Butler.

Southern regained the lead, scoring four runs in the bottom of the third. Sophomore pitcher Jonathan Roberts was pulled after just 2.2 innings and allowing five earned runs. Sophomore reliever Alex Cruze finished out the inning. Southern’s lead was short-lived, as the Jackets scored five in small ball play to begin the fourth.

The Eagles tied the game again in the bottom of the sixth, as they scored three runs on Pitts, who finished out the inning without relief.

Tech regained the lead for the final time in the top of the eighth, as Thomas and Wren scored on a go-ahead home run by Evans. Southern scored one more run in the bottom of the eighth as Williams crossed the plate for the fourth time that night. Bard earned the save by closing out the game in the ninth.

The Jackets will play their first home weekend series from Friday, Feb. 24, to Sunday, Feb. 26 ,at 4 p.m. against Ohio State at Russ Chandler Stadium.