Baseball makes ACC semis, heads to Nashville

Tech baseball celebrates after their walk-off win against Louisville. Freshman Andrew Jenkins hit a two-run double in the bottom of the twelfth to win the game. // Photo courtesy of GTAA

After earning the second seed in the Nashville regional, Tech is preparing to make a run in the NCAA tournament. They reached this point after recording multiple recent walk-offs, including one against Louisville in the ACC tournament. The Jackets entered the conference tournament as ACC Coastal division champions.

Tech was placed in Pool B alongside Clemson and Louisville. Following an 11-5 defeat to Clemson, Tech found themselves in a must-win situation against Louisville in order to keep their hopes of an ACC title alive. On the other hand, Louisville was in a must-win to keep their hope of an NCAA tournament berth alive. Louisville got off to just the start they were looking for as they built a 4-0 lead after the top of the third inning. Tech responded with two runs of their own and cut into the deficit. They ended the third inning trailing 2-4.

Both teams traded runs in the fourth inning, keeping the margin at two. Louisville then widened their margin to three runs after five innings. As the game approached the eighth inning, the Jackets felt the pressure mounting and understood how pivotal of a moment it was. Tech’s star freshman catcher, Kevin Parada, responded with a three-run home run to tie the game 6-6 after eight innings. Following a scoreless ninth inning, the two teams went into every baseball fan’s favorite situation: extra innings. A scoreless tenth inning further extended the game.

Louisville began the eleventh inning with back-to-back fly balls caught. The third batter of the inning stepped up to the plate with two outs and responded with a one-run homer to give the Cardinals the lead. Tech responded with a double from freshman Drew Compton that brought Brad Grenkoski home to make it a 7-7 game and force a twelfth inning. A Louisville run at the top of the twelfth inning put them back in front.

In the twelfth inning, Tech fans were on the edge of their seats. As the young freshman Andrew Jenkins stepped up to the plate, Tech had runners Tres Gonzalez and Justyn-Henry Malloy on base but had two outs. The moment was not too big for Jenkins as his double brought both Gonzalez and Malloy home to end the game 9-8 in walk-off fashion.

Tech came out on top in a hard fought out game to end pool play of the ACC tournament 1-1. Clemson and Louisville each also ended pool play 1-1, but because Tech owned the tiebreaker, they advanced to the ACC semifinals to take on NC State. The Jackets, led by their strong batting, were heading into their matchup against NC State with great confidence.

NC State got off to a quick start as they took a 3-0 lead and gave up only one hit after the first two innings. In the next three innings, Tech was able to get a strong hit to open the inning but were rarely able to convert after. In the sixth inning with Tech trailing 4-1, there was a moment where it appeared the momentum was going to shift in favor of the Jackets.

With a runner on base and facing two outs, Parada stepped up to plate. He hit a high fly ball to left field which was originally ruled a two-run home run to make it a 4-3 ball game. Upon further review, the umpire ruled it a foul ball, leaving it a 4-1 ball game. Parada drew a walk after the call was overturned.

Malloy then grounded out and ended the inning. This call proved to be a pivotal call in the game. After this ruling, Tech was held scoreless the rest of the way, and NC State pulled away by scoring four runs in the final two innings. NC State advanced to the ACC Championship after taking down Tech 8-1.

Following an impressive regular season and a semifinal appearance in the conference tournament, the Jackets will be competing in the Nashville Regional.

Their first matchup will be against Indiana State. The other two teams making up the Nashville regional are Vanderbilt and Presbyterian. Vanderbilt is a perennial championship contender and the current defending champions having won the College World Series in 2019 (the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID). They are returning their star pitcher, Kumar Rocker, from their championship run as they look to defend their title.

Tech is looking to dethrone the defending champs and move on themselves.

Throughout the season, the Jackets have been a strong batting team led by the top of their batting order. However, their pitching has been inconsistent at times.

To come out of the Nashville Regional and make a deep College World Series run, they will look to have more consistency on the pitching side and convert off their chances by not leaving runners on base on offense. The Jackets have their eyes set on a deep run ahead.