Jackets fall to rival Bulldogs in three-game series

Junior pitcher Camron Hill extends into his pitching motion against the Georgia Bulldogs on Friday, March 2nd. Hill retired the first three batters he faced, but the game was later suspended due to dangerous playing conditions. // Photo by Caitlin Aycock Student Publications

After a 10-0 drubbing of the Georgia State Panthers, the Jackets had the chance to show they were the top dogs in the state with a three-game series against the 8-1 University of Georgia Bulldogs. Unfortunately, their Friday game was not the only thing suspended as the Jackets’ hitting and solid pitching vanished in a 3-1 loss on Saturday and 11-9 loss on Sunday versus the Bulldogs. 

Beyond the historical context, where Tech holds a 61-56 record since 1990, the Bulldogs were a good litmus test for the Jackets’ offensive prowess and pitching performance. Tech’s 23 homers lead the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) while starters like junior pitcher Aeden Finateri and sophomore pitcher Carson Ballard went five innings deep in their respective starts against Cornell and Georgia State. Repeating their performance on the mound and at the plate against a team like Georgia would be difficult, but the Jackets seemed up to the challenge.

Unfortunately, Friday’s game at MacNease Park did not inspire optimism. While the torrents of rain forced the game to be suspended in the middle of the fifth inning, Tech was losing, 9-3. Junior pitcher Camron Hill looked good initially, retiring three straight batters. 

At the plate, senior first baseman/pitcher Cam Jones belted a solo runs-batted-in (RBI) homer over center field. However, the Bulldogs started to figure out Hill’s pitches and belted nine runs in over the next four innings. Georgia took the lead on a three-run homer from graduate student outfielder Dillon Carter and extended it after another second 3-RBI homer from sophomore Lukas Farris. In the interest of player safety, the game was suspended and a future resume date has not yet been scheduled. 

Saturday’s game was a much cleaner affair, but ended in a disappointing 3-1 loss. However, Finatieri did everything he could to give the Jackets the win. The right-handed pitcher went six innings, giving up four hits and one run. Unfortunately, the offense could not give him any run support. 

After Finateri surrendered an early run in the bottom of the second, the Jackets quickly answered at the top of the third. Sophomore outfielder Parker Brosius sent the pitch from graduate student pitcher Christian Mracna deep into right field to tie the game up. However, the offense failed to score another run for the rest of the afternoon. Sensational freshman outfielder Drew Burress, who currently leads the ACC in home runs, hit a triple at the top of the fifth inning that ended up fizzling out without any runs. 

Although they are among the top-five in the ACC in both home runs and slugging percentage, their batting average and total hits are among the bottom four teams of the ACC. As a result, their consistency at the plate has suffered and it showed on Saturday. Still, the defense came to play — shortstop Payton Green found Jones on a beautiful double play to keep the game tied 1-1. Unfortunately, when Finateri turned the game over to the bullpen, freshman pitcher Tate McKee and Jones both gave up runs that the Jackets’ bats failed to answer at the plate.

Because of the suspension of Friday’s game, the Jackets still had a chance to even the series in Sunday’s neutral-site game in Lawrenceville, Ga. at Coolray Field. However, the largely excellent pitching and dismal hitting from Saturday reversed as the Jackets lost an 11-9 heartbreaker to cement the dissapointing series loss.

Junior right-handed pitcher Logan McGuire got the ball for the series-clinching game and gave the Jackets a solid five innings of work. While he did give up two runs, the runs were on only three hits and he accumulated a career-high nine strikeouts on eighteen batters faced. After an injury-riddled 2023 season, it is good to see McGuire rounding into form as he figures to be a key part of Tech’s 2024 starting rotation. Neither team got going at the plate until Jones sprung second baseman Mike Becchetti for the score to give Tech the 1-0 edge. Showing off his power, catcher Matthew Ellis then belted a two-RBI homer deep into right field to extend the lead to 4-0. 

Becchetti, who hits second in the Tech lineup, accrued another run by slapping the baseball into the middle of the field to score Burress. Buress reached second base on an earlier double after hitting from his leadoff spot in the batting order. Now holding a five-run lead, Bulldogs sophomore infielder Kolby Branch located McGuire’s pitch and sent it back to give Georgia two runs. However, freshman third baseman Ryan Jaros forced a competitive at-bat to get a critical run over with two outs on the board at the bottom of the fifth. Again, Georgia came back with another run but found themselves in a 9-3 hole after mental lapses gifted Tech three free runs. With the game firmly in hand at 9-3, the Jackets had every chance to win this game. Unfortunately, Tech captured defeat from the jaws of victory as their bullpen collapse coincided with a cold stretch at the plate. 

Over the last three innings, the Bulldogs tagged the Tech bullpen to the tune of eight unanswered runs to take a 11-9 victory. Five different relievers gave up runs, but Tech could not do anything against Georgia’s bullpen to preserve the once-sizable lead. 

Despite the series loss, Burress’s sizzling start to the year recieved recognition as the Tech freshman  was named the Perfect Game College Baseball Player of the Week.

Tech fans should look for him — and the rest of the team — to rebound against the Northeastern Huskies on Wednesday, March 6 before taking on the Youngstown State Penguins in a four-game weekend home series at MacNease Park.