Five run first inning leads Jackets to win over Seminoles

Photo by Austin Foote

The Jackets defeated Florida State 5-3 extending their win streak to seven games and improving their record to 22-13 (9-7 ACC). It was the fifth win in the past seven games for Tech against a team ranked number one in the nation in at least one poll.

Freshman shortstop Connor Justus went 1-2 and led the Jackets with two RBIs and sophomore left fielder Matt Gonzalez went 1-3 with an RBI. Florida State shortstop Justin Gonzalez led the Seminoles at the plate going 2-4 on the night with two RBIs. Junior starting pitch Josh Heddinger picked up the win on the mound and is now 2-1 on the season.

The Jackets did not take long to get going offensively, striking for five runs off Florida State starter Luke Weaver in the first inning. Junior center fielder Daniel Spingola led off the first with a single, followed by senior second baseman Mott Hyde who reached on an error. Matt Gonzalez drove in the first run of the game on a single that gave him his seventh hit in his last eight plate appearances and gave the Jackets a 1-0 lead. After Weaver walked junior designated hitter A.J. Murray with the bases loaded to make Tech’s lead 2-0, a single by freshman shortstop Connor Justus scored two more increasing the lead to 4-0, followed by Keenan Innis getting an RBI on a fielder’s choice to make it 5-0 heading to the second inning.

“It was a good first inning. We put a crooked number up there on a really good pitcher early,” said Tech Head Coach Danny Hall. “I would have liked to see us score a little bit more as the game went on. [Weaver] settled in, as most good pitchers do and made it tough to score, but we made it hold up.”

Weaver did indeed settle down after the first inning, retiring seven straight Tech batters from the final out of the second inning until the first batter of the fifth inning where Mott Hyde reached on a single to right field. Weaver finished the game with seven innings pitched, allowing five runs to go along with five strikeouts.

Contrary to Weaver, Tech starter Josh Heddinger had no problems in the early part of the game. Heddinger did not allow a hit until the sixth inning. Heddinger’s final line was five innings, two runs and five strikeouts.

“I think particularly early on he was really good, he took a no hitter into the sixth. I thought by far his best performance of the year by far,” Hall said.

Heddinger got into some trouble in the top of the sixth after allowing the first three Seminole’ batters to reach base and cut the Tech lead to 5-1. Tech reliever Sam Clay replaced Heddinger and inherited runners on the corners with no outs. Florida State designated hitter D.J. Stewart, who leads the ACC in batting average, roped a single to left field on Clay’s first pitch scoring left fielder Casey Smit cutting Tech’s lead to 5-2. Clay got back-to-back strike outs and induced an inning ending groundout to get out of the inning and limited the damage to just two runs.

Clay struggled with his control to begin the seventh inning, walking the first two batters before getting a groundout, and then hitting Florida State left fielder Casey Smit with the pitch to load the bases with one out. A single by Justin Gonzalez scored one run to cut the lead to 5-3, but Clay got D.J. Stewart to line into a 6-4 double play to end the inning.

Senior pitcher Dusty Isaacs came in on relief in the eighth and continued into the ninth picking up the save for the Jackets in the 5-3 victory.

“[Clay’s] been money for us. I thought he was really close on a couple pitches, but just didn’t quite get them called, but we’re fortunate we have him and Dusty sitting there. Between the two of them, one of them is typically going to be on,” Hall said.

Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston made an appearance in the sixth inning, replacing Florida State left fielder Casey Smit. Winston had one at bat in which he flew out to left field.

“I think they were all interested in seeing him. After all, he’s a Heisman Trophy winner and that’s select company. He’s a great athlete and my understanding is that he’s going back to play in the spring game tomorrow. It takes a special guy to not only have his talent, but also take everything that comes with it,” Hall said.