The Jackets opened the season at home with a weekend series against the Ohio State Buckeyes on Friday, Feb. 24. The No. 10 Jackets took two of three games from the Buckeyes, winning on Friday and Sunday, 12-4 and 13-4 respectively, but losing on Saturday 7-3.
Starter Buck Farmer struck out a career-high 13 batters as the Tech offense put on a show in game one. Farmer, earning his first win of the season, gave up three runs on six hits through six innings, throwing a total of 105 pitches. He kept the Ohio State batters guessing all afternoon, getting ahead in the count early and forcing them to swing at anything near the plate.
Tech found itself trailing 1-0 early after the Buckeyes’ Josh Dezse hit a solo shot in the second. It was the first of three home runs in the game for the first baseman, who finished the day three for four with three RBIs. But that was about all the Ohio State offense could muster, as the rest of the team was three for 29.
Meanwhile, the Jackets found success throughout the lineup. Five Tech players had a multi-hit game, and the offense as a whole scored twelve runs on fifteen hits. The unit also went eight for 15 with runners in scoring position.
The Jackets began to click in the second inning, when sophomore Zane Evans and senior Jake Davies drove back-to-back doubles to tie the game. The team scored four runs in the next inning and another three in the fourth to put the game out of reach for the Buckeyes. Sophomores Daniel Palka and Chase Butler homered for the Jackets, and Palka, Davies and sophomore Paul Kronenfield each had multiple RBIs.
The Jackets could not find similar success on Saturday, dropping the game by a final of 7-3. Ohio State took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning on a solo shot that was just over the glove of right fielder Kronenfield. The Buckeyes then scored another two runs in the second inning. The first four Ohio State batters reached base to bring in a run and load the bases with nobody out. Then, sophomore pitcher Matt Grimes got the next batter to ground into a 6-4-3 double play, followed by another groundout to end the threat.
In the bottom of the third, Evans brought home freshman A.J. Murray on a single for Tech’s first run of the game.
Tech continued to dig themselves into holes defensively, facing three bases-loaded, no-out situations in consecutive innings. The first time, which occurred in the second inning, they allowed two runs. In the next inning, sophomore Alex Cruz came in at pitcher to relieve Grimes. He struck his first batter out and got the next to ground into a double play to get Tech out of a jam without giving up a run. The third time prompted Tech to change pitchers as Ohio State scored another three runs.
Grimes started at pitcher for the Jackets but did not last long, being pulled in the third inning after allowing three runs on three hits while walking five and striking out one. Tech’s offense sparked in the sixth and seventh, but these late runs were not enough to overcome the Buckeyes’ early lead as Ohio State won the game.
The Jackets’ offense found its rhythm early in the final game of the weekend en route to a 13-4 blasting of the Buckeyes. In the bottom of the first, Davies hit a three-run homer to score junior Brandon Thomas and sophomore Kyle Wren. Then, in the third inning, freshman Connor Lynch stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and blasted a bases- clearing double over the left fielder’s head to give Tech a 6-1 lead.
The fifth inning was an explosive one for the Jackets as they scored six runs and ran two Ohio State pitchers out of the game. The first three batters of the inning walked to load the bases for Palka, who then hit a double to the left-center gap that scored two. A wild pitch during the next at-bat brought Thomas home, and Davies brought in another run with a double to right. An error by the third baseman off a Lynch grounder scored Davies and Evans and gave Tech a 13-1 lead.
The Jackets’ pitching on Sunday was much more consistent than the previous day’s. Sophomore pitcher Dusty Issacs kept the Buckeyes batters at bay early. After giving up a leadoff triple and a run in the first inning, he settled down and pitched four scoreless innings before being pulled in the sixth. Overall, he went 5.2 innings, giving up three earned runs on five hits while walking three and striking out three.
Issacs faced a difficult situation in the fifth, with runners on first and third and only one out. But he persevered, getting the next batter to ground into a double play to end the inning.
With the game out of reach in the sixth inning, Tech began substituting players, bringing in a pinch hitter for all four batters that inning. All but three Tech starters had been replaced by the end of the game as the Jackets won by a final score of 13-4.
The Jackets then returned to action on Wednesday, Feb. 29, when they hosted Kennesaw State. The game time was postponed twice due to expected inclement weather, but this uncertainty did not seem to faze the Jackets, who won the game 11-5. This was the fourth time in five games that they scored double-digit runs. Freshman Cole Pitts got the start for Tech, going four innings and giving up no runs on three hits while striking out five. He only faced 16 batters, being pulled early after Tech went up 11-0.
Tech scored three runs, all unearned, in the second inning off of a few errors by the Kennesaw fielders before blowing the Owls away in the third. This seven-run inning saw back-to-back triples by Wren and Thomas immediately followed by consecutive doubles by Palka and Evans. Wren’s triple, his first of two in the game, came with the bases loaded and netted him three RBIs, tying him with Winn for the most of the day.
Kennesaw did not go down without a fight, scoring four runs in the inning after Pitts’ departure. However, they were unable to maintain the surge and Tech won the game.
The Jackets return to action this weekend when they face the Rutgers Scarlett Knights at home.