On Tuesday April 27, the Jackets faced UGA for the third time this season. Tech had defeated UGA by a combined score of 31-10 in the two previous games at each team’s home field. However, this game was played in front of 16,194 fans at Turner Field. The game was close, and Tech needed clutch two out hits to win, but the Jackets finished off the sweep by defeating the Bulldogs 6-4.
It was the first time Tech had swept UGA since 1994.
“It [the sweep] feels great, and I hope there’s not 16 years in between the next one. It’s a great feeling to beat them three times. We hadn’t won at Turner Field for a long time either, so to get a win here was great,” said head coach Danny Hall after the game.
Freshman pitcher Mark Pope assumed his usual role of weekday starting pitcher for this contest and the hard throwing righty pitched well to start the game. Pope did not surrender a hit until the sixth inning.
After the Jackets left two runners stranded on base to leadoff the top of the first inning, Pope took the mound for the bottom half of the inning and struck out the first batter he faced. Pope carried his momentum throughout the inning retiring the Bulldogs in order, including another strikeout.
Pope made his first mistake in the bottom of the second inning when he hit UGA’s Zach Cone with a pitch putting Cone on base with nobody out. Pope rebounded and picked off Cone with a quick move to first base for the first out of the inning. Pope got a groundout and a fly out to end the inning keeping the score 0-0.
The Jackets were still unable to produce anything offensively as they went down in the third inning without producing a base runner. Pope continued his dominance in the bottom of the frame and struck out two batters. Through three innings Pope had faced only nine batters, the minimum possible.
After doubling in the first inning, senior first baseman Tony Plagman led off the fourth inning for the Jackets but was unable to get on base, flying out to right field. The rest of the Jackets went down without a whimper bringing Pope back out to the mound. Pope got the first batter to fly out on the first pitch of the inning then struck out the next batter he faced. After four innings, the teams had combined for one hit and zero runs.
Tech went down in order to leadoff the fifth and Pope finally ran into trouble in the bottom of the fifth. With one out already recorded, sophomore third baseman Matt Skole sailed a throw over Plagman’s head giving the Bulldogs their second base runner of the game. Pope then walked the next batter he faced after running the count full. Pope would continue to struggle with his control as a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position. Pope regained his composure after that and struck out the next two batters he faced to end the inning.
The Jackets got a runner into scoring position in the sixth but were unable bring him home. As if zero runs through six innings was not unlucky enough for Pope, UGA got its first hit of the ballgame with a leadoff two-strike bunt single. UGA followed by getting its first “true” hit of the day with a single to left field. The next UGA batter hit a pitch right back at Pope making the ball ricochet off of Pope’s leg. Pope was unable to get the runner out at first and the Bulldogs had the bases loaded with no outs thanks to two infield singles. Pope was able to get out of the jam with only two RBI singles by getting two more strikeouts.
“It’s part of the game [cheap hits]. Sometimes it just happens, but you just try to minimize the damage [the best] you can. I was just happy they only came out with two runs in that inning,” said Pope after the game.
Down 2-0, Tech tried to answer in the seventh inning. Skole and junior right fielder Chase Burnette singled giving Tech two base runners. However, two fly outs ended the inning and stranded the runners. Pope allowed two more singles in the bottom of the frame but UGA was unable to add to its small lead.
It looked like he might have been able to pitch the no-hitter, but Pope finished the game with six innings pitched, two earned runs, and nine strikeouts.
“Yeah, I was just about four innings short. I wasn’t too happy with that two-strike bunt, but it was a perfect bunt,” said Pope.
After a fly out to start the eighth inning, it looked as though Tech might actually get shutout for the first time all season. Then, junior center fielder Jeff Rowland took a 1-0 pitch to center field for a double. Junior shortstop Derek Dietrich singled to put runners on the corners for Plagman. Plagman flied out to center field but he hit the ball hard enough to advance Rowland and score the first run of the game for the Jackets. After a pitching change, junior catcher Cole Leonida singled to move Dietrich to second base. Skole came up to bat and raked a ball down the right field line, just out of the reach of the Bulldog’s outfielder. Skole made it to third and scored both runners, giving Tech the lead at 3-2. Tech scored three more times in the inning as 11 batters came to the plate.
“Everybody’s a little nervous in the first few at bats, a little tight, but I kind of got loose in there, took better swings and put the ball in play, and it worked out,” said Skole after the game.
Trailing 6-2, the Bulldogs got the good news that Pope’s day was done and they pounced on the opportunity to face Tech’s bullpen. Senior pitcher Patrick Long relieved Pope and got two srikeouts but did allow a runner to reach second base. After a wild pitch and a walk, senior pitcher Andrew Robinson allowed a two-run double putting the score at 6-4 in favor of the Jackets heading into the ninth inning.
Tech was unable to add to their lead in the ninth inning and UGA got a two-out double but were unable to turn it into any runs as Robinson closed the game for his fourth save of the season.<!--EndFragment-->