Tech baseball drops pair of ACC series

Sophomore pitcher Dalton Smith pitches during a recent game. The Jackets have fallen from a top-ten ranking after two ACC series losses against Wake Forest and NC State. // Photo by Caitlin Aycock Student Publications

After a hot start to the season, Tech baseball has dropped their last two ACC series and suffered their first non-conference home loss of the year. A pair of weekend series against Wake Forest and NC State as well as weekday games against Jackson State and KSU packed Tech’s schedule from March 15–27.

Tech opened the slate with a 16–6 win over Jackson State in a game ending via run rule in the 8th inning. Tech jumped out to a 3–1 lead in the second inning and piled on the runs from there, scoring six in the fourth and four in the sixth to earn an eight-run lead. Three more insurance runs in the final two frames set the winning margin for the Jackets. Sophomore infielders Andrew Jenkins and Drew Compton led Tech at the plate, combining for three home runs and six RBIs. Junior pitcher Luke Bartnicki earned the win with three innings of one-run work as the starter.

The Jackets then hosted Wake Forest for their weekend series, falling the first two nights before rallying for a Sunday afternoon win. Wake won the first game 5–3 in a game that featured five combined errors by the two teams and 12 Jacket base runners stranded. Sophomore outfielder Tres Gonzalez recorded both of Tech’s RBIs while sophomore infielder Tim Borden II had the other multi-hit day for the Jackets. Junior pitcher Chance Huff received the loss on the day with four earned runs through 4.1 innings on the mound.

Wake clinched the series in game two behind an offensive outburst in which they scored in every inning except the first. Tech led in the early innings, holding a 5–3 lead through the third frame, but fell victim to a 12-run fifth inning by the Demon Deacons. Gonzalez and Jenkins both had multi-hit outings for Tech. Freshman pitcher Logan McGuire received the loss, allowing one run in his inning on the mound.

Tech bounced back to avoid a series sweep on Sunday, March 20, beating Wake Forest 14–5 as five Jackets recorded two or more hits. Senior outfielder Colin Hall and sophomore outfielder Stephen Reid each drove in three runs to lead the team. Tech opened the game with a six-run first inning and led 9–0 after six innings on the back of sophomore pitcher Marquis Grissom Jr. and redshirt senior pitcher John Medich’s combined 5.1 innings of scoreless work. Medich picked up the win.

After a rest day, Tech headed to Kennesaw State on March 22. Reid and Jenkins each had three hits, with Reid driving in six runs, as the Jackets beat the Owls 13–2. McGuire and sophomore pitcher Dalton Smith combined for six innings of one-run pitching as Smith picked up the win. Tech held a 4–1 lead after six frames but stretched the lead out with a nine-run seventh, increasing their total to 13. 

The Jackets returned to Russ Chandler Stadium for the second leg of the home and home against KSU. The Owls jumped out to an 8–0 lead, eventually leading 11–3 after the top of the sixth. Tech’s bats rallied for nine runs over the last four innings, but fell short 14–12 for the Jackets’ first home loss of the year. Six Tech players had at least two hits, including Borden and sophomore catcher Kevin Parada.

Against NC State on March 25-27, the Wolfpack swept Tech, dropping their road record to 3–5. Game one saw a close game through four innings, with the teams tied at six. NC State jumped to an 8–6 lead after the sixth inning, where the score held after quiet bats the rest of the game. Jenkins led the Jackets at the plate with three RBIs on four hits, and Huff picked up the loss with five earned runs given up in three innings.

Tech fell again in a close second game, losing 6–5 after giving up four runs on errors. Hall drove in three runs to lead the Jackets on offense, while Jenkins and Gonzalez each had two hits and an RBI. NC State’s four-run fourth inning did most of the damage, and runs in the fifth and seventh by the Wolfpack proved to be enough. Freshman pitcher Cody Carwile picked up the loss after giving up five runs, though only two earned.

The final game of the series saw Tech’s bats fall flat in a 6–1 loss. Borden hit a solo home run to give the Jackets a lead in the third inning, but they failed to score again as NC State rallies in the sixth and eighth innings put the game out of reach. Grissom pitched five scoreless innings for Tech, but Medich received the loss with a two-inning, two-run outing. 

Tech dropped to 16–9 following the stretch of games and fell below .500 in ACC play. While still generally dominant at home, Tech’s road struggles were highlighted as they dropped to 3–6 away from Mac Nease. Tech dropped to No. 21 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, but has a chance to get back on track with a series win in Charlottesville, Virginia. against consensus top ten team Virginia on April 1–3.