Kevin Parada sets school home-run record as Georgia Tech sweeps Pitt

Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada at against Auburn at Russ Chandler Stadium April 13, 2021. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

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Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada at against Auburn at Russ Chandler Stadium April 13, 2021. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Georgia Tech entered the final weekend of the regular season still not having earned its spot in the ACC Tournament. The Yellow Jackets exit it with their spot in the conference tournament secure and enjoying their longest win streak since March and their longest going into the conference tournament since 2004, when they had won 17 in a row.

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On Saturday afternoon at Pittsburgh, Tech (33-21, 15-15 ACC) completed a three-game sweep of the Panthers, taking the final game by a 13-7 score. Down 5-2 after four innings, the Jackets overwhelmed Pitt (27-26, 13-16) with five runs in the top of the fifth to take a 7-5 lead that they held the remainder of the game. Dawson Brown earned the win in relief as Zach Maxwell finished the final 1-1/3 innings for the save.

“I think we’re playing with a lot of confidence were competing very hard, and we played, I think, our best baseball,” coach Danny Hall said after the game. “Had a really good couple days in Ohio (where Tech beat Akron and Kent State in midweek games), had three really good days here, and so just good to see. It’s a strong finish for us in the regular season, and now everything switches to postseason play. But very pleased with how our team’s playing right now.”

The game perhaps was most notable for catcher Kevin Parada taking down the 32-year-old school record for home runs in a single season. In the top of the ninth, Parada timed a breaking ball from Dylan Lester and easily cleared the center-field fence for his 26th home run of the season, breaking the mark set by Anthony Maisano in 1990.

Yellow Jackets legends who’ve played since Maisano set the mark and not managed 26 home runs in a season – Jason Varitek, Nomar Garciaparra, Jay Payton, Mark Teixeira, Matt Wieters and Joey Bart.

Further, Parada, a surefire first-round pick in the June draft, surpassed Maisano in an era when rules have deadened bats and also when his home games were played on a field whose dimensions have been made significantly more pitcher-friendly since Maisano’s days with the Jackets.

“He’s a fantastic player, plays in one of the toughest conferences in the country, plays the toughest position to play,” Hall said. “To hit 26 homers, being a catcher, I’ll be shocked if he’s not the MVP. If he’s not, then something’s wrong just because it’s so tough to catch every day and be a great hitter, and he’s done that.”

A less significant but more painful school mark was set by designated hitter Tim Borden. In addition to hitting his 17th home run of the season as part of Tech’s five-run fifth that gave the Jackets a 7-5 lead, Borden was hit by a pitch in the second inning, which was the 22nd time this season that he absorbed a hurled baseball, setting a record held by Derek Dietrich (2010) and Tristin English (2019).

“That just kind of illustrates his toughness,” Hall said.

First baseman Andrew Jenkins continued his torrid season, going 7-for-16 in the series with six runs, three RBIs and two home runs, including the game-winner Thursday night in the top of the ninth in an 8-7 win. He is hitting .389 for the season with 17 home runs.

Saturday’s win followed a 19-3 rout on Friday night in which the Jackets tied their season high for hits with 23, including three for home runs. Starter Marquis Grissom took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before it was broken up but earned the win in going a career-long six innings with a career-high 10 strikeouts against three hits and three walks for two runs. It was his best start of his past five.

The 17 runs that Tech’s pitchers gave up to Pitt at Cost Field over the three games represented the second-lowest total of the season against a power-conference opponent, bettered only by the 12 allowed to Florida State in the home series win over the Seminoles on March 25-27.

Pitt batted .250 for the series, the third lowest by a power-conference team in a three-game series against Tech this season. The Jackets came to Pittsburgh with an opponent batting average of .310 in league games, second highest in the conference. Pitt was hitting .274 against league pitching before this series.

Tech will learn its assignment for the ACC Tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday with the completion of the conference regular season. The tournament format will place the 12 teams into four three-team pools, with the winners advancing to the semifinals. Pool play begins Tuesday.

Tech’s chances in Charlotte may depend on the degree to which the Jackets can replicate their pitching performance in Pittsburgh. The hitting, certainly, doesn’t seem to be an issue, as Tech batted a healthy .374 with 10 home runs against the Panthers. The former set a team high for the season for a three-game series and the latter tied the high in that category.