The Tech baseball team returned to Mac Nease Baseball Park last weekend for the first time since its series against Pittsburgh three weekends before. The Jackets, facing the Virginia Cavaliers in a Thursday, Friday, Saturday series (altered from the traditional weekend format to accommodate Easter Sunday), won the opening bout before falling in the two subsequent meetings.
The Jackets defeated the Cavaliers 6-5 on Thursday on the back of a stellar start from junior left-hander Brant Hurter. The hurler went seven innings while allowing no runs as he continued a streak of excellent performances on the mound. The Cavaliers had better luck against Tech’s bullpen, scratching across three runs against junior Hugh Chapman and freshman Dalton Smith in the eighth inning. Sophomore Luke Bartnicki took the mound in the top of the ninth and earned the save despite surrendering two runs (one earned) and allowing the tying run to reach third base.
Senior right-hander Griff McGarry started Thursday’s matchup for the Cavaliers and struggled immediately, giving up two runs in each of the first two innings on five hits and four walks. Senior Paul Kosanovich relieved McGarry in the third inning and stopped the bleeding temporarily, but surrendered two earned runs of his own in the fourth inning. Senior right-hander Paul Whitten finally silenced the Jackets’ bats, allowing no runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh, and Freshman left-hander Jake Berry added a scoreless eighth to finish things for the Cavaliers.
Offensively, the Jackets were led by freshman catcher Kevin Parada, who went 4-5 on the day in his fourth four hit performance of the season. Junior shortstop Luke Waddell added a solo homerun and freshman first baseman Drew Compton tacked on an RBI double.
Junior right-hander Andy Archer got the start for the Jackets on Friday, cruising through three scoreless innings before losing control of the game in the fourth. The inning began with a quick groundout back to Archer for the first out. Archer then worked his way into a jam, starting with a walk, followed by a line-drive single and a bunt which the pitcher failed to field cleanly, allowing the batter to reach and a run to score on the error. Archer fielded a second bunt to get the second out of the inning, but subsequently walked another batter to load the bases, which set junior Nic Kent up to launch a grand slam over the left field wall.
In the bottom of the fourth the Jackets were able to claw back two runs on a Kevin Parada solo shot and a sacrifice fly from freshman designated hitter Stephen Reid to cut the deficit to three, but Tech’s offense failed to score throughout the rest of the game as they faced excellent pitching performances from Virginia’s senior starter Andrew Abbot and senior reliever Blake Bales. Tech’s bullpen looked better than the 8-2 final score implies. Freshman Josiah Siegel took over for Archer in the fifth and gave up significant contact. Still, he maintained his composure and control over his pitches and limited the damage to one run. Siegel tossed a scoreless sixth before the Cavaliers adjusted to his pitching and loaded the bases on three straight hits in the seventh.
Freshman Dawson Brown inherited Siegel’s jam, allowing runs to score on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly before retiring the side. Brown worked a scoreless eighth (though he did allow two walks) and sophomore Cort Roedig finished things up, working a scoreless ninth.
Sunday’s game was a frustrating one for the Jackets. Sophomore Sam Crawford got the start and initially struggled to limit hard contact, allowing several hard-hit balls in the first inning and giving up a run in the second. Crawford seemed to hit his stride in his second run through the Virginia batting order, allowing just an infield single in his remaining three innings.
Crawford exited the game after the fifth inning, handing the reins to Luke Bartnicki, who surrendered runs in the sixth and seventh innings. The bullpen imploded from there, as freshman Zach Maxwell pitched the eighth inning and struggled with his command, allowing the Cavaliers to tack on two more runs on three walks and a single. Freshman Dalton Smith started the ninth inning and struggled to miss bats, allowing four hits without recording an out before being replaced by junior John Medich, who finally retired the Virginia offense after it scored six runs in the final frame.
Tech’s offense was held scoreless through the first five innings by Cavaliers starter Mike Vasil before scoring lone runs in each of the subsequent innings. The Jackets’ bats showed some life late in the game, but the Cavaliers struck back in the next inning each time they cut into the deficit before eventually putting things out of reach in the top of the ninth and handing Tech an 11-4 defeat.
The series raises serious concerns about the Jackets’ bullpen and defense (Tech fielders combined for 9 errors on the weekend). Additionally, Tech’s offense was quieted more effectively than it had been all season, in part due to a poor approach at the plate which allowed Virginia’s Friday and Saturday starters to keep their pitch counts down and work late into the games. The Jackets have room to improve in several phases of the game.
Tech returns to ACC play this weekend, going on the road to face Notre Dame in South Bend. After that, the team travels to Blacksburg to face Virginia Tech before returning to Mac Nease Baseball Park for a homestand against Florida State, all interspersed with non-conference tilts.