Baseball swept by FSU, tops Mercer

The Tech baseball team faced their most daunting test when they hosted the No. 2 Florida State Seminoles over the weekend in a series beginning Friday, April 6. The Seminoles got the best of Tech for all three games, sweeping the series 2-1 in extra innings on Friday, 12-7 on Saturday, and 8-4 on Easter Sunday. The wins kept FSU at the top of the ACC with a record of 26-5, while Tech dropped to 19-13.

The first game of the series was a pitchers’ duel, with both starters lasting at least into the eighth inning. FSU left-hander Brandon Leibrandt gave up only three hits in 7.1 innings. He kept the Tech batters guessing, forcing them to swing on tough pitches and either pop the ball up or ground into an out. Junior right-hander Buck Farmer pitched a similar game for the Jackets, placing the ball into difficult spots for the batters and trusting his defense to secure the outs. He finished the day with five hits, one run and eight strikeouts while throwing 126 pitches, the most in his career.

Both teams’ defenses held up their ends of the bargain, starting as early as the first inning. With runners on first and second for FSU, junior left fielder Brandon Thomas made a sprinting catch on a deep fly ball to end the inning without giving up a run. FSU responded when right fielder Seth Miller had a diving play of his own in the seventh, albeit with the bases empty.

FSU went up 1-0 off of a double in the second inning. From there, the teams’ offenses remained dormant until the eighth, but neither team could score. Then in the ninth inning, sophomore center fielder Kyle Wren reached base on an infield single. The next batter, Thomas, ripped a double down the right field line to score Wren and send the game into extra innings. FSU took the lead again in the tenth with a line drive single to left field. Tech was unable to answer that in the bottom frame, and FSU took the game 2-1.

Saturday’s game looked promising for the Jackets, who at one point had leads of 5-0 and 6-1 over FSU. They got off to a quick start in the top of the first when Thomas hit a triple to right field. He then scored on a single by senior first baseman Jake Davies over the head of the shortstop to give Tech a 1-0 lead.

Wren had a triple of his own in the third that was blasted to the right-centerfield gap, and he scored on a single to the same spot by Thomas. Thomas would score from third on a passed ball later in the inning, which prompted the departure of FSU’s starter. The Jackets scored two more runs that inning to take a 5-0 lead. FSU struck back with a run in the fourth, but it could have been worse for the Jackets. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Dusty Isaacs faced a bases-loaded, one-out situation but struck out the next two batters to end the inning.

The Seminoles exploded in the fifth inning to score nine runs, all with two outs, to take the lead. Things started unraveling for the Jackets when Isaacs walked in a run and was subsequently pulled from the game. The next batter, Jose Brizuela, hit a grand slam to give FSU their first lead of the game. Another homer followed his blast, and by the end of the inning FSU was up 10-6.

The Jackets showed some life in the seventh when sophomore outfielder Paul Kronenfeld hit a pinch-hit triple to bring in a run, but FSU responded in the eighth with two more runs and ended Tech’s hopes of a comeback.

The Sunday finale was not much better for the Jackets, who went down early and, despite a late surge, could not come back to win. Freshman pitcher Cole Pitts took the mound for Tech but did not make it past the fourth inning, giving up nine hits and six runs (three earned) on 91 pitches while striking out three. He did not get much help from the defense, as three of FSU’s eight total runs were the results of fielding errors by the Jackets.

The Seminoles got it going in the third with a double down the right field line to bring in a run. They were even more opportunistic the next inning, scoring four runs with two outs to go up 6-0. A single brought in the first run of the inning, followed by a fielding error that allowed the next batter to reach base. A double soon brought in two more runs.

Tech responded in the bottom half when Thomas scored off of a Davies single. They scored again in the seventh on a fielder’s choice, and took two more in the eighth due to a bases-loaded walk and another fielder’s choice. But FSU’s lead was too much for Tech to overcome as they took the game 8-4 and the series 3-0.

The Jackets finally got a win on Tuesday when they hosted Mercer and beat them 6-4.

Tech went down early in the second due to a solo shot by Mercer, and a double later in the inning put the Bears up 2-0. But Tech responded in the bottom of the frame with three runs, featuring a bases-loaded single by sophomore shortstop Mott Hyde. Hyde, Thomas, Davies and freshman catcher Connor Lynch each had a multi-hit game for the Jackets, who as a team finished with 12 hits. Mercer tied the score in the third off a bases-loaded walk, prompting sophomore right-hander Alex Cruz to come in for relief.  He pitched 4.2 innings and earned the win, giving up only one hit. The Jackets took the lead in the fourth inning and added to it in the sixth to go up 6-3. Sophomore right-hander Zane Evans closed out the game to earn the save and secure the victory.

The Jackets return to action this weekend when they travel to Wake Forest for a three-game ACC series.