Grissom Jr. to start for Georgia Tech in ACC semi, but bullpen thin

Georgia Tech freshman pitcher Marquis Grissom. (Georgia Tech Athletics)
Georgia Tech freshman pitcher Marquis Grissom. (Georgia Tech Athletics)

After a 14-inning win over Louisville on Thursday that drained the pitching staff, Georgia Tech will look to Marquis Grissom Jr. to carry the Yellow Jackets in their ACC Tournament semifinal matchup with N.C. State on Saturday.

Coach Danny Hall tapped out most of his bullpen to get through the team’s two pool-play games, but was able to keep Grissom, his Sunday starter, on the bench. Tech will need Grissom to, first of all, pitch well enough to give the Jackets a chance to win and get to the Sunday final, but also pitch long enough to give the bullpen a break . The Jackets used four pitchers against Clemson and then eight to get through Louisville.

Having Grissom fresh is helpful, “but we’ll have to recover really well the next 24 hours just to retool, regroup and reset for Saturday,” Hall said.

Grissom, the son of the former Braves center fielder, has made seven appearances, five of them starts. He has grown in effectiveness, culminating in his past two starts, against Miami and North Carolina. In a combined 10-1/3 innings, he gave up a total of three earned runs, allowing nine hits and five walks against seven strikeouts. In his first five appearances, including three starts, he gave up 12 earned runs in 12-1/3 innings.

“The main focus is getting ahead in counts, focus on my mechanics and executing those pitches with conviction, and I’ll be more successful in the future,” Grissom said after earning his first career win Saturday over the Tar Heels. The win secured the Coastal Division title for the Jackets.

“I really like Marquis,” Tech ace Brant Hurter said of Grissom earlier this week. “I think he’s just young. He’s still figuring out how to throw to college hitters, but he’s really talented. He’s got a really good head. I really like what I’m seeing from him lately.”

Against N.C. State, Hall had hoped that Hurter could go long, but he was off his game and managed to make it through only 2-1/3 innings. He was replaced by Hall’s No. 2 starter, Andy Archer, who threw 35 pitches. The next reliever, Sam Crawford, threw only 14 in his first outing since May 16.

Zach Maxwell had the heaviest load at 56 pitches and would seem unlikely to be able to go again.

Luke Bartnicki, who threw 27 pitches against Louisville, would appear to be available. He threw twice in the same weekend series six times this season. The most combined pitches he threw was 58.

Hall has relied on Maxwell and Bartnicki heavily this season.

With a day off Friday, Hall is hopeful that perhaps some of the relievers who threw either Wednesday or Thursday could return.

Another question is who would start if the Jackets were to defeat N.C. State and make the final. Archer, the No. 2 starter, would seem a possibility for at least a short stint.

“We’ll have to map it out (Friday),” Hall said. “(Pitching coach Danny Borrell) is really good at staying on top of all that. He can definitely get the pulse of all of our guys, and then we’ll map it out and come up with a good strategy.”

Tech does have a benefit in that N.C. State, will play Friday in its final pool-play game, although the Wolfpack used only two pitchers in its Thursday-night win over Pitt, including closer Evan Justice for 17 pitches. The Wolfpack can play their Friday game against North Carolina without needing to win because of the unusual format of the tournament.

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