Feb. 23, 2011
STATESBORO, Ga. – Freshman Daniel Palka went 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBI to lift No. 21 Georgia Tech (3-2) to a 7-4 win over Georgia Southern (3-2) Wednesday evening at J.I. Clements Stadium in Statesboro, Ga.
The Jackets evened the four-game midweek series at 1-1 with the win. The two teams will meet again
Palka entered the game with just two hits in his first 14 career plate appearances, but erupted with hits in his first three at bats Wednesday. The Lyman, S.C. native’s three-run shot with two outs in the third inning gave the Jackets a 3-0 lead. It was the first home run of the season for Georgia Tech. He was a triple shy of the cycle.
“Everything was really smooth today and I just relaxed and waited on my pitch,” said Palka of his big game. “Coming out here and playing in front of thousands of fans had me really anxious during the first few games, and is something that I had never done before. I finally settled down and was me, just played the game that I am used to.”
Freshman outfielder Kyle Wren chipped in with three hits and a RBI of his own as both newcomers led the team offensively.
Freshman pitcher Matthew Grimes (1-0) earned the win on the mound after scattering four runs (two earned) on five hits over 5.1 innings. Grimes recorded three strikeouts in his first career start.
The Jackets extended their lead to 5-0 with two more runs in the fourth inning. Freshman Kyle Wren’s single to left field scored sophomore Brandon Thomas for one of the two. Georgia Southern left fielder Michael Burruss made a fielding error on the same play as Tech freshman DeAndre Smelter raced home from third for another run.
The Eagles rattled off four unanswered runs over the next three innings to cut the lead to 5-4. A two-run shot by Steve Cochrane to right field in the fourth, followed by a solo blast to left field by Victor Roach in the sixth keyed the runs for the Eagles.
That was as close as Georgia Southern would get, as Tech freshman Conner Kendrick shutout the Eagles in 2.2 innings of setup relief. Kendrick allowed just three hits in the outing.
Junior Jake Davies’ RBI pinch-hit double in the eighth, and Palka’s sacrifice fly to left field in the ninth added two more runs to close out the scoring for the Jackets.
Junior Jacob Esch, who moved from second base to the mound in the ninth inning, retired three of the four batters he faced for his first save of the season. Junior Connor Winn highlighted the inning with a spectacular grab on the edge of the infield at second base to throw out the first batter in the final frame.
Georgia Southern starter Justin Hess was credited with the loss after allowing three runs on six hits in 3.0 innings. All three runs came on Palka’s home run.
The Jackets return home to host No. 24 St. John’s this weekend at Russ Chandler Stadium. First pitch is at 4 p.m. Friday, as the series continues at 2 p.m. Saturday and concludes at 1 p.m. Sunday.