At a basic level, baseball games are won by teams scoring more runs than they allow. The first part of that equation comes naturally to Tech, but as their series against Boston College showed, consistency in the second part has been a struggle.
Tech ranks second in the ACC in team batting average (.314) and hits (323), while also ranking third in on-base percentage (0.422) and total bases (537). Even if they are not quite as good at generating power (sixth in slugging percentage) or home runs (seventh), the batting order generally makes good contact.
Unfortunately, their pitching is in the exact opposite situation. Sophomore relief pitcher Terry Busse leads the ACC in games saved as one of the division’s best high-leverage arms, but the general quality of Tech’s pitching has been unreliable. They rank second-to-last in the ACC in earned-run average (6.78) and opponent batting average (.294), allow the most hits (302) and give up the most home runs (47). The numbers paint a picture of a hopeless pitching rotation that is devoid of talent. However, it would be more accurate to suggest that the pitching is simply inconsistent.
Even though Boston College came into the series ranked at No. 13 in the country, Tech still had a chance at the upset. Their pitching is fine, supported by the fact that they rank top-five in the
ACC in earned run average and middle of the pack in virtually every other pitching metric. They rank close to the bottom of every meaningful batting category in the ACC. Still, Tech has picked up some big wins, so the Jackets definitely qualify as an above-average opponent.
In their first game on Friday, Tech’s young pitchers came to play. Both true freshmen and righties, pitchers Luke Schmolke and Demetri Diamat were critical in the 5-4 win. Schmolke got the start and looked sensational through his five innings. He only gave up two hits and collected four strikeouts while receiving good support from the field. On the offensive side, junior third baseman Drew Compton hit a single and double in both of his first two at-bats to score four runs on the day. Redshirt sophomore first baseman Jackson Finley also collected a double. By the end of the first inning, Tech pulled out to a 3-0 lead and they never relinquished it. Courtesy of Compton, they added another two runs in the third inning while Schmolke was able to keep the Eagles off the scoreboard. Unfortunately, after Schmolke left the game, redshirt sophomore reliever Ben King and sophomore reliever Camron Hill both struggled and gave up multiple runs to make it 5-4. Tech bats unfortunately tailed off in the late stages of the game, which made for a pretty tense ending. Thankfully, Diamat got two big strikeouts and ended the eighth inning while Busse took over the bottom of the ninth and ended it in a Tech victory.
Tech’s offensive cold streak from the end of the first game carried over to the second. Despite the pitching holding up throughout most of the game, the offense just could not get anything going against BC graduate starting pitcher Chris Flynn. In the six innings he pitched, he held Tech to a single run while forcing six strikeouts. It was not all bad — redshirt freshman shortstop Kristian Campbell had a nice day, going three for three and getting a walk. Senior left fielder Angelo Dispigna also went two for two and got two walks. However, Compton leaving the second inning with an injury proved to be an omen for the offense. Thankfully, a double from sophomore infielder Nick Romano to get Finley home in the sixth inning kept Tech from going scoreless. On the mound, both Finley and sophomore pitcher Aeden Finareti had good outings. Even though Finley gave up three runs, they all came on two pitches. Finareti looked good in the last three innings — he did not allow any runs and gave the offense a chance to cut into the BC lead. They just were unable to capitalize in an empty 3-1 loss.
With the series tied at 1-1, Tech’s pitching struggled in their third and final game to seal a disappointing end to the series. Sophomore pitcher — and usual reliever — Cody Carwile got the start due to injuries in the rotation. Compton also did not play in this one, but the offense had no issues scoring runs. Campbell kept his contact streak from the last game going in the first with a walk, followed by a single from junior outfielder Stephen Reid and a huge three-run blast by Dispigna. Unfortunately, Carwile gave up a three-run homer to BC junior infielder Patrick Roche. The 3-3 tie held until the bottom of the third, where BC hit Carwile again for another two runs and Tech coach Danny Hall substituted him for junior reliever Jackson Vaughan.
Vaughan was able to end in the inning and turn it over to the offense — junior first baseman John Giesler sent a solo home run deep to make it 5-4, Boston College. Vaughan closed out the fourth inning again with a huge strikeout, but he gave up a double in the fifth. Senior reliever Joseph Mannelly came in, but King quickly replaced him in a bases-loaded situation that he calmly froze to take the game to the sixth inning. However, the pitching churned through relievers in the seventh and eight innings to offset a ridiculous hot streak by BC as they scored 19 runs in the last two innings. When the dust settled, the Eagles won handily at 24-12.
Tech’s offense and pitching are rarely on point simultaneously against these tougher opponents and it’s something they will need to iron out over the months of April and May. The Jackets returned home to beat the Georgia Southern Eagles 13-7 on Tuesday, April 4 and will host UNC for a three-game home series beginning Thursday, April 6.