Baseball competes for ACC, heads to Knoxville

Sophomore infielder Tim Borden II jogs home during Tech’s ACC game against Pitt. He led the Jackets offensively, recording two hits, two RBIs and a run. // Photo courtesy of GTAA

The Jackets began the season as one of the most anticipated teams in the nation, especially from an offensive standpoint. Throughout the season, they have put their offensive prowess on full display, which has led to them leading the nation in many offensive categories. They possess the second-highest batting average and fourth-highest hits in the nation; they also are in the top five in scoring. They have been led by sophomore infielders Andrew Jenkins and Tim Borden II and sophomore catcher Kevin Parada. Parada’s offensive abilities have made him one of the top players in the nation and placed him in position to be a top-10 draft pick in the 2022 MLB draft.

Their high-octane offense can enable them to turn the game at any point. Notably, this aspect of their game appeared to be crucial in their final series of the regular season. Still looking to lock up a spot in the ACC tournament, Tech traveled to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers.

The first game was a back-and-forth affair with the Jackets taking an early 7–0 lead in the third inning. However, the Panthers managed to claw their way back into the game to tie the score entering the ninth inning before Jenkins hit one of his 17 home runs on the year to give the Jackets an 8–7 win.

The second and third games of the series were dominated by the Jackets with 19–3 and 13–7 wins.

Multiple benefits came from the sweep. First, Tech secured a spot in the ACC tournament with their series win. Second, Parada hit his 26th home run of the season breaking a 32-year-old record for most home runs in a single season in school history. Finally, Borden was hit by a pitch for the 22nd time this season, setting another school record. Parada also led the ACC in home runs, RBIs and runs scored.

Tech entered the conference tournament as the seventh seed. Their squad featured first-team All-ACC selections Parada, Jenkins and sophomore infielder Chandler Simpson, second-team All-ACC selections sophomore outfielder Tres Gonzalez and Borden, and third-team All-ACC selection sophomore outfielder Stephen Reid. The Jackets were placed in a group with Pittsburgh and Louisville.

The first game started off with Tech’s redshirt senior pitcher John Medich giving up two runs in the first inning to give Pittsburgh a 2–0 lead. However, Medich bounced back from those two early runs and began picking up his pitching. The Jackets showed off their ability to turn a game around quickly. After a fielding error by the Panthers and a single from Gonzalez, Tech took a 3–2 lead in the third inning.

They would go on to keep the momentum going and widen their lead to 6–2 by the end of the fifth inning. As powerful as Tech’s offense has been, their pitching has been inconsistent. Some games they have been able to hold nation’s best teams to zero runs, while other days they have been unable to limit their opponents’ offenses. Their pitching ranks near the bottom of the conference in many pitching categories including doubles, triples and home runs allowed.

Their inconsistency on the pitching side allowed for the Panthers to get back into rhythm on the offensive end. Pittsburgh scored eight runs in the sixth inning and took back the lead 10–6. They would go on to widen the lead and win the game 12–6.

Tech bounced back strongly in their second game against Louisville, one of the top ranked teams in the nation. They came out on top 9–4 to split the pool play games, but failed to move on to the next round of the tournament.

The Jackets’ play this season earned them a spot in the NCAA tournament in the Knoxville Regional with the number one overall seeded Tennessee Volunteers. While it may seem daunting to be placed in the same Regional as the top seed in the tournament, the Jackets are prepared and poised to take on the task. This season, they were faced with the fifth toughest schedule in the nation and have proven themselves against the high-level competition.

They have had the second-most wins against top-25 RPI teams, only the Volunteers have had more wins. They have played against some of the top teams in the conference when they were playing their best and found themselves on top. For example, they beat conference foe Miami when the Hurricanes were ranked No. 3 in the nation, as well as North Carolina and Virginia Tech, teams that are currently top-10 in RPI.

A year ago, the Jackets were eliminated in the first round in heartbreaking fashion against Vanderbilt. They have their eyes set on building on their success from last season and making a deeper run this time around.

While Tech has gotten one of the most difficult draws, they have proven themselves repeatedly against the nation’s best and have an offense that can chase any score. The Jackets are looking to take their success from this season and translate that into a deep postseason run.