Baseball sweeps Rutgers, improves to 12-1

Photo by John Nakano

Tech’s No. 18 ranked baseball team swept four games at home over the past week, besting Rutgers in a three game weekend series before hosting Mercer on Tuesday. The Jackets dismantled the Scarlet Knights, winning all three games by a combined score of 36-3 while collecting 43 hits. They followed with a 16-9 win over in-state opponent Mercer in a matchup between two 11-1 teams.

The team began the weekend with a 13-1 win over Rutgers. Senior pitcher Buck Farmer got the start, giving up just one unearned run off of seven hits in six innings while striking out nine. Tech was held scoreless through the first three innings, but a grand slam by first baseman A.J. Murray blew the game open. It was the first home run of the sophomore’s career. The Jackets scored again in the fifth when freshman Matt Gonzalez cleared the bases and reached third on a single due to a fielding error. Junior catcher Zane Evans also homered for Tech as part of a four-run seventh inning.

…winning all three games by a combined score of 36-3

Senior third baseman Sam Dove began the scoring for the Jackets in game two when he crossed home in the first inning off of an errant throw. It was the first of four errors committed by Rutgers in the game, which in turn led to four unearned runs for Tech. By the end of the second Tech held a 6-0 lead. Junior outfielder Daniel Palka highlighted the fourth inning with towering three-run home run over the trees and onto Fowler St to put Tech up 9-0. He batted in four runs on the day and went two-for-three at the plate. Junior pitcher Dusty Issacs got the win, striking out six batters in six innings in Tech’s 11-2 victory.

The rout was on early for the Jackets in game three as they scored six runs, all off of singles, in the first inning and took the game, 12-0. Junior outfielder Kyle Wren went four-for-five on the day, while Palka and junior shortstop Mott Hyde each added two RBI. Five Tech pitchers held the Scarlet Knights to just four hits, with sophomore pitcher Cole Pitts picking up the win.
The Jackets struggled early against Mercer on Tuesday before putting the game away late. Sophomore catcher Connor Lynch struggled to catch Josh Heddinger’s pitches in the first, and it ended up costing the team. Two passed balls allowed runners to advance into scoring position, and both were driven home by a Mercer single.

The Jackets took a run back in the second when Murray scored off of a Hyde single. Then in the third, junior pitcher Alex Cruz entered in relief, facing runners on first and third with one out. He got his first batter to ground into a double play, ending the Mercer threat without giving up a run. An error in the fourth brought another Mercer runner on a play that would have ended the inning.

Wren got the ball rolling in the fifth by laying a bunt down the third base line. An error by the pitcher on the throw to first brought Hyde home. Dove followed that with a bunt of his own to bring in Lynch and tie the game, prompting a pitching change. A double by Thomas gave Tech the lead 4-3, and ended a streak of 28-straight singles for the Jackets that extended back to Game 2 vs. Rutgers.

The lead was short-lived, however, as a two-run homer in the sixth swung the game back in Mercer’s favor. Another run via a double brought the score to 6-4.

Tech’s bats proceeded to light up the next two innings as the team scored eleven runs off of nine hits. Wren began the run in the the sixth, scoring off of a Thomas single to bring it back to within one. Thomas finished the day with four hits and three RBIs. After Palka was intentionally walked to load the bases, Murray came through with a three-run triple over the center fielder’s head to give Tech the lead again. Then in the seventh, a few singles paired with some Mercer errors allowed the Jackets to put up six more runs to take a commanding lead to eventually win, 16-9.

The Jackets are on a roll heading into their first conference matchup against the Virginia Tech Hokies in Blacksburg, Va. this weekend.