Georgia Tech pitching falters in ACC Tournament loss to Pitt

Georgia Tech first baseman Andrew Jenkins and his teammates lost to Pitt on Tuesday at the ACC Tournament. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

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Georgia Tech first baseman Andrew Jenkins and his teammates lost to Pitt on Tuesday at the ACC Tournament. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

After a promising performance by the Georgia Tech pitching staff in its three-game road sweep of Pittsburgh last week, the Yellow Jackets succumbed to the same Panthers on Tuesday afternoon after a faltering effort out of the bullpen in the opening game of the ACC Tournament.

No. 7-seed Tech lost 12-6 at Truist Field in Charlotte, N.C., with the No. 11-seed Panthers blowing the game open with eight runs in the top of the sixth.

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With the loss in the first game of pool play, the Jackets are effectively eliminated from the tournament, although they’ll have to stick around for their second pool-play game Thursday morning against No. 2-seed Louisville. In the three-team pool format, the tiebreaker in the event of every team finishing 1-1 (which would be Tech’s best-case scenario at this point) is seeding, and Louisville would win by virtue of being the No. 2 seed in the 12-team tournament. The Panthers and Cardinals will play Wednesday with a spot in the semifinal on the line.

On Tuesday, Tech broke out after falling behind 2-0 in the top of the first inning, generating a total of six runs in the third, fourth and fifth, with Tim Borden supplying a home run (his 18th of the season) and run-scoring double, to take a 6-2 lead after five innings. Starting pitcher John Medich appeared to be in control, having faced 13 batters (one over the minimum) and giving up no runs in the second through fifth innings.

But Medich then gave up a walk, back-to-back home runs and a hard-hit single to open the sixth as Pitt closed the lead to 6-5. Sam Crawford and Dawson Brown had difficulty stopping Pitt after that, and the Panthers turned a 6-2 deficit into a 10-6 lead in the space of a half-inning. Pitt scored its eight runs with eight hits and the aid of two Tech errors.

It was reminiscent of many other crash landings by the Tech pitching staff, which finished the regular season second to last in ERA (6.50) and opponent batting average (.287) in the ACC. Tech coach Danny Hall had been encouraged by his staff in the three-game sweep of Pitt, in which the Jackets held the Panthers to 17 runs for the three games and a .250 batting average.

On Tuesday, Pitt amassed 16 hits, four for extra bases. Of the 12 runs allowed, 11 were earned.

After the Louisville game Thursday, Tech will return to Atlanta and await assignment for the NCAA Tournament, the team’s third in as many seasons. If past form holds, Tech likely will be sent to a four-team regional hosted by an SEC opponent. While Tech’s bats will strike fear into virtually any opponent the Jackets will face, the pitching staff remains a looming question mark.