Early last week, Tech baseball won two non-conference games against the Long Island University Sharks and the Kennesaw State University Owls. In the contest on Tuesday, Feb. 28 against LIU, the Jackets got off to a slow start on the mound allowing four first inning runs. However, they were quick to forget their rough top of the inning, scoring 12 runs in the first thanks to home runs from senior left fielder Angelo Dispigna, senior designated hitter Jack Rubenstein, and two from redshirt sophomore first baseman Jackson Finley. The eight-run lead in the first proved enough to overmatch the Sharks, but not without more help from junior right fielder Stephen Reid with four RBIs and Finley with another home run. Junior reliever Jackson Vaughan gave the Jackets three scoreless innings out of the pen while also fanning four batters.
Following the seven inning mercy rule win over LIU of 23-11, the Jackets took on the Owls the next day. Once again, first inning woes hurt the Jackets as junior starting pitcher Dalton Smith allowed two runs in the first, but Tech responded again in the bottom of the inning with two of their own. The Owls captured the lead again in the top of the third, but the Jackets seized it back with a three-run home run from Finley to deep left center. With the help of scoreless outings from redshirt sophomore pitcher Ben King, redshirt senior pitcher Joseph Mannelly, and sophomore closer Terry Busse, the Jackets narrowly held onto their lead and won the game 5-4.
Even after two wins in weekday affairs, the main event was next for the Jackets, as a three game series with UGA was scheduled for the weekend. Given the proximity of the schools, Game 1 was played on Friday in Athens, Game 2 on Saturday was at Russ Chandler Stadium, and Game 3 on Sunday was at a neutral site, Coolray Field, home of the Gwinnett Stripers.
Heavy rain poured through on Friday night in Athens forcing the scheduled 6 p.m. start time to be pushed back until nearly 8:30 p.m. After a solid first inning, Tech ace junior pitcher Dawson Brown was rocked in the second and third as he gave up seven runs on six walks. The Jackets, already behind the eight ball, could not capitalize on good opportunities in the box as they hit 1-15 with runners in scoring position. Even after a three-inning scoreless stint from Vaughan, the absence of the bats proved costly in the game and the Jackets dropped their first game of the season by a score of 7-2.
In front of a sold-out crowd, the Jackets returned to the Flats hoping to forget their loss the day before and squeak out a series win over the Dawgs. With the Ramblin’ Reck on hand and newly-hired head football coach Brent Key throwing the first pitch, fans were excited and believed a different Jackets team would surface.
Once again, the Jackets failed to pitch a scoreless first and the Dawgs found themselves ahead early up 8-2 after the fourth. The bleeding did not stop for the Jackets as the Dawgs continued to pile runs up, eventually winning by a final tally of 16-6. Bright spots for the Jackets included a three-hit game from freshman shortstop Nico Senese and a three-run homerun from freshman first baseman Carsten Sabathia, son of MLB All-Star pitcher CC Sabathia.
Heading to Coolray Field in Lawrenceville on Sunday, the Jackets hoped they could find something positive to take away from their series and avoid the sweep. Finley started on the mound for the Jackets and provided the Jackets a scoreless first inning. In the top of the third, the Jackets loaded the bases with no outs, and Dispigna ripped a single to right field to score two. This was the first game of the week when the Jackets were first on the scoreboard, a stat that will be key in future contests. After four innings of one run and two hits, Finley gave the ball over to King. King continued the dominance that Finley had, allowing zero runs in three innings of relief. Junior pinch hitter Drew Compton returned to the lineup for the first time since his injury in the opening series, and added an RBI on a base on balls. Sophomore second baseman Nicholas Romano provided an insurance run on a sac fly and the Jackets held onto the lead for the rest of the game winning 4-1. To close the game, Busse pitched two scoreless innings, striking out five.
The Jackets’ momentum, especially that on the mound, will be paramount to continue as they begin conference play this week against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-4) for the weekend series at home.
They last faced the Irish in 2021 at Notre Dame’s Frank Eck Stadium, losing two out of the three-game series. Coming off of a two-game winning streak, the Jackets hope to continue their winning ways into the weekend.