Jackets pounce on Panthers in pivotal ACC series

Freshman pitcher Michal Kovala pitches against the Panthers in the final game of the series, which the Jackets won 7-4. Within the game, he did not give up any runs and struck out one batter. // Photo by Knox Lingenfelter Student Publications

Coming off a loss against the Boston College Eagles and an action-packed win over the Presbyterian Blue Hose in 10 innings, Tech headed up north to Pennsylvania to square off against the University of Pittsburgh Panthers in hopes of claiming an Atlantic Coastal Conference (ACC) win.

The Jackets looked to continue their success in their first of three games against the Pitt Panthers on April 5 at the Charles L. Cost Field. Tech started the game off strong, scoring five runs before the Panthers could score one. Pitt would attempt to catch up with runs in both the fourth and fifth innings, but Tech would only solidify the lead with senior catcher Matthew Ellis securing an runs-batted-in (RBI) walk in the ninth inning. This was one of three RBIs for Ellis in the game, with the other two runs coming from a two-run home run scored earlier in the game. 

Junior pitcher Aeden Finateri also had an impressive performance. Having pitched 5.2 innings, he struck out four players, only allowing for three runs in the time he was at the mound. Finateri has been one of the most reliable arms in Tech’s rotation, as evidenced by him having the second lowest earned-run average (ERA) among the team’s starting pitchers. The following day, the Jackets faced off against Pitt again hoping to continue their winning streak; however, the game did not play out as they may have hoped. 

Tech took the lead with a run in the first inning after an RBI walk from Ellis. However, the Panthers were quick to catch up, tying the game 1-1 by the end of the second inning. The game was closely contested from that point forward with the third and fourth inning seeing no runs scored on either side. In the fifth inning, Pitt reclaimed the lead with another run, but by the end of the sixth inning, Tech had tied once more thanks to a RBI walk from freshman infielder Carson Kerce. 

Even with an impressive defensive performance by senior leftfielder Trey Yunger and sophomore outfielder Parker Brosius in the field, the Panthers were able to score a final run in the ninth inning to secure the walk off win, after another two scoreless innings for both sides. With one loss and one win to their name in the series against Pitt, the Jackets had a lot riding on the final game in the series on April 7. The Jackets started strong, going into the third inning 3-0.

 Ellis scored the first run for Tech, and the game, in the first inning. Senior first baseman John Giesler padded the score further with a home run in the second inning, and Yunger furthered the lead with another RBI walk. The Panthers tried to catch up but freshman pitcher Tate McKee was at a career best, and in five innings, he notched nine strikeouts. The Panthers eventually succeeded in getting one run with McKee at the mound, putting the game at 3-1 going into the sixth inning.

The sixth inning saw no runs on either side, but the seventh inning saw explosive performances from Tech. Within the inning, freshman third baseman Ryan Jaros secured an RBI walk and both Ellis and Yunger scored home runs with Ellis hitting an impressive 484-foot home run. In an impressive play on Pitt’s part, the team mirrored Tech with three points in the next inning, but Tech still managed to get a run — keeping the score still predominantly in Tech’s favor with 7-4.

Going into the final inning, neither team scored — cementing a Tech victory in not only the game, but the series. Coming off an impressive series of games against both Pitt and Presbyterian, Tech will face Georgia Southern at Mac Nease Baseball Park on Wednesday, April 10 at 4 p.m. before welcoming an ACC opponent with a three-game series against Virginia Tech at home