Tech’s season ends in Knoxville Regional

Junior pitcher Chance Huff unloads a fastball pitch during Tech’s win over Alabama State in the Knoxville Regional. Huff picked up the win with seven innings of three-run work, allowing tech to move forward in the regional. // Photo courtesy of GTAA

It has often been said that true character is revealed in defeat not victory. The second-seeded Jackets came into the Knoxville Regional alongside Campbell, Alabama State, and number one overall seeded Tennessee. The Jackets dropped their opening game against Campbell by a score of 15–8 but demonstrated great resiliency as they bounced back in dominant fashion.

In their opening matchup against Campbell, senior John Medich started at pitcher. Tech found themselves in an early deficit after they gave up five runs in the second inning, leading to an early 5–0 hole. Sophomore catcher Kevin Parada’s score made it a 5–1 game, but every time the Jackets had a chance to creep back in, Campbell would score. Quickly Campbell’s runs added up and they came out on top. The Jackets only recorded four players with runs scored. Now, Tech was in a situation where every game had become an elimination game with their backs against the wall.

The next day against Alabama State they came out with just that mindset. Parada and sophomore infielder Chandler Simpson set the tone, and each put themselves in scoring position in the third inning. Sophomore Tres Gonzalez topped it off with a three-run home run to give the Jackets a 4–2 lead. Tech kept the momentum rolling in the fourth inning by adding on an additional four runs to make the score 8–2. The Jackets had finally begun exuding confidence in the post-season, and carried it with them the rest of the way as they emerged victorious 13–4 to keep their season alive.

On the third day of the regional, the Jackets were slated to have a rematch against Campbell to avoid elimination and avenge their loss. Once again they found themselves with their backs against the wall, but this time came out on top by putting their offensive prowess on full display. They scored five runs in the second inning and showed no signs of slowing down. Scoring at least one run in every inning, they totaled 16 runs. On the other side, sophomore Josiah Siegel put forth a strong showing on the mound giving up only one run and three hits through 6 1/3 innings. The Jackets’ 16–5 win put them in the regional final against Tennessee.

The final began just hours after their win over Campbell. Tech’s most reliable pitcher this season, sophomore Zach Maxwell, would get the call to be the starter. The Jackets got off to just the start they would have hoped for. Through four innings, the Jackets would score four runs without giving up one. But, in the fifth inning, Tennessee got on the board by bringing two runners home. After six innings, Maxwell would come out. He gave them everything the team could have asked for and more as he recorded 11 strikeouts and only gave up five hits and two runs. Holding a 4–2 lead, the Jackets had multiple scoring opportunities but were unable to convert off their chances. In the seventh inning, Tennessee was able to drive in one more run to cut the deficit in half. After a scoreless eighth inning, Tech was three outs from being one step closer to knocking off the number one overall seed. However, Tennessee had other plans, and a series of miscues by the Jackets saw their lead evaporate away. Tennessee’s six runs in the ninth inning brought the score to 9–4.

For the majority of teams in the nation, this daunting task would likely mean the end, but everyone knew that Tech was amongst a handful of teams that could overcome this type of deficit at this point in the game. In big moments, big players shine the brightest. Hits by Parada, Simpson, Gonzalez, and sophomore infielder Tim Borden II led to the Jackets tallying two runs to make it 9–6. With bases loaded and a potential chance to end the game with a walk-off homer, senior Colin Hall stepped up to the plate. He faced a full count and struck out. The game ended the Jackets’ season and saw Tennessee advancing to the Super Regional.

Sophomore Andrew Jenkins, Parada, and Simpson each made first-team all-region and Borden made second-team all-region. Once again, the Jackets were eliminated in heartbreaking fashion. While the year ended earlier than hoped for, the Jackets put forth a record-breaking season filled with accolades that will have this team etched in the record books for a long time.