After ending last season with a heartbreaking 11th inning where the Jackets fell to the then No. 4 ranked Vanderbilt Commodores during game six of the NCAA regional tournament, Tech baseball is ready to take the field on Friday Feb. 18 during their opening day matchup against the Wright State Raiders.
The Jackets hope to continue the momentum of last season, which included notable regular season wins over No. 3 Louisville and an away weekend sweep of No. 13 NC State who later knocked Tech out of the semifinals of the ACC tournament after the Jackets won their division.
Sophomore pitcher Zach Maxwell recounted his favorite win that he attributes to last season’s postseason success. “The win I loved the most was the weekend series against Clemson,” said Maxwell. “It was a good sweep at home to really get us going in the right direction before playoff baseball started. It felt like a turning point for the team to take down a division rival with a sweep. It sent the message that we may have been down the week before but you know, we’re still here and we’re still coming to play.”
Last spring’s official opening of Mac Nease Baseball Park, a much needed facelift for the stadium, was the first step in the baseball program’s attempt at creating an unbeatable atmosphere. With the team set to host over thirty home games this season, a call has been put out for students to join the “Macs Maniacs,” the official student section to help support the team throughout the season. Maxwell says that having the support of the fans helps not only the morale of the home team, but can deter the focus of the visiting team as well.
“The student section has a bigger impact and more of a hold of the other team than they do us. It creates a much harder environment for other teams coming in to play,” said Maxwell. “Of course, you know, we feed off you guys and you guys feed off us too. We make a good play and y’all get loud and you know, it goes back and forth. But when you look at other programs especially like in the SEC and with Mississippi State they got cowbells and they’re screaming and have all their antics and you just see how hard it is for other teams to come in and play.”
Fans will be introduced to a few new faces this season, with Maxwell highlighting sophomore Chandler Simpson, a transfer from UAB, and Aeden Finateri, a first year pitcher recruited out of Connecticut.
“You definitely have to watch Simpson. He’s lightning quick and he’s going to be an impact player. He’s fun to watch in practice so in real games he is going to be a special pitcher,” said Maxwell. “Another guy to watch is Aeden Finateri. He’s going to throw a lot of innings this year, he’s throwing really well in the preseason so he’s definitely going to be a guy to watch out for on the mound. He’s spunky and he’s a true competitor.”
Among the veterans, sophomore catcher Kevin Parada will be a key player to watch as the Jackets play through the season. Parada has already racked up multiple preseason accolades, including a spot on the Golden Spikes Award watch list, one of the highest honors amateur baseball players can be awarded.
Maxwell noted that chemistry and commitment to each other will be the key for the team to plot course for Omaha. With their last appearance in the College World Series being in 2006, Jacket fans are anxious for the talented team to hopefully break through this season.
“I’m here with the team. I can’t go anywhere without the other guys in the locker room and they can’t go anywhere without me, so it’s kind of a very mutual relationship. We all want to play deep into June, we want to go to Omaha, but we have to take it one day at a time,” said Maxwell.
“It’s really hard in this game to look ahead because it’s very, very easy to get turned upside down in a span of a couple days. But, we want to win the ACC conference tournament, we want to win the Regional, the Super Regional and we want to go to Omaha to compete. We want to show that this place really belongs on top of the discussions of baseball programs in the country.”