March 30, 2013
THE FLATS – No. 16 Georgia Tech got a pair of late-game three-run home runs from Daniel Palka and A.J. Murray, and brought the winning run to the plate in the ninth inning, but couldn’t complete the comeback in an 8-6 loss to Wake Forest Saturday in the second game of a twinbill at Russ Chandler Stadium.
The Yellow Jackets, who won Friday 5-1 and took Saturday’s first game 8-1, slipped to 21-6 overall and 8-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Demon Deacons (16-14, 4-8) escaped by avoiding the sweep.
After a four-hit, three-steal performance in Saturday’s first game, Kyle Wren had two more knocks in the nightcap, a steal and a run. Wren hit a team-best .667 (10-for-15) this past week with a homer, five runs and four steals. His ACC-leading hitting streak stands at 16 games.
“Kyle’s swinging a hot bat right now and Palka had a big weekend,” said head coach Danny Hall. “But we got off to a tough start in the second game, we were sloppy and when we tried to wiggle ourselves out of some jams, we couldn’t make a pitch to do it.”
The Jackets were held in check by Wake starter Austin Stadler, who took a 6-0 lead into the seventh inning stretch.
Tech, though, began chipping away after Thomas Smith ripped his first career triple down the right-field line to lead off the seventh. Wren walked, was erased on a fielder’s choice, and Palka followed by launching a three-run bomb over the wall in right-center to break up the shutout and slice the margin in half.
Palka, who has homered in four consecutive games, now has eight this season and 31 for his career. He’s second in the ACC in homers behind teammate Zane Evans (10).
Wake capitalized on a Tech error and a passed ball in the ninth inning to push a pair of much-needed insurance runs across, making the score 8-3, but Tech’s offense had one more surge in the ninth.
Wren got the inning started with a walk, and then with two outs, Evans walked ahead of Murray, who rocketed a three-run blast to right field to make it 8-6. Matt Gonzalez and Mott Hyde drew back-to-back free passes to bring the winning running to the plate, but closer Connor Kaden ended the drama with a strikeout to lock up his fourth save.
“We charged back into it and we brought the winning run to the plate in the ninth,” said Hall. “And that’s good to see that we didn’t give up and kept coming back.”
Kaden allowed Stadler to pick up his fifth victory and improve to 5-2. Stadler scattered six hits over six innings with one run, one walk and 11 strikeouts in the impressive outing. Tech starter Cole Pitts lasted just 2.1 innings and was charged with three hits and three runs and absorbed the loss (4-2).
Jack Carey had three hits two RBI, while Pat Blair was 2-for-3 and scored three times to pace the Demon Deacons’ offensively. Tech was out-hit, 11-9, for just the second time this season (0-2).
Tech plays a pair of midweek games before returning to ACC play this weekend at Duke. Tuesday night, the Jackets are in Macon for a 6 p.m. game versus Mercer, while Kennesaw State comes calling Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Russ Chandler Stadium.