A three-run homer by Daniel Palka in the top of the third inning broke a scoreless tie and ultimately provided the winning margin as No. 19 Georgia Tech avenged Tuesday’s 6-5 loss with a 7-4 win to even the series with Georgia Southern Wednesday at J.I. Clements Stadium.
Georgia Tech (3-2) racked up 12 hits off of six different GSU pitchers and never trailed.
In the top of the fourth, the Yellow Jackets added to their lead when Kyle Wren singled to left to drive in Brandon Thomas. An error in the outfield allowed Thomas to advance to second and DeAndre Smelter to score, giving Tech a 5-0 lead.
The Eagles (3-2) got those two back in their half of the fourth with two-run home run by switch hitting cleanup hitter Steve Cochrane. After Eric Phillips reached on an error by second baseman Jacob Esch, Cochrane deposited an 0-1 pitch off of Tech starter Matt Grimes (5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER) over the fence in right-center to cut the score to 5-2 after four.
"Grimes had very good stuff today, especially early in the ballgame," said GSU coach Rodney Hennon. "Once his pitch count got up, we were finally able to square some balls up and get to him a little bit. I thought he was very good for them and got then out to a lead, but I was happy with our approach. In a game like that, when a guy is pitching good, there’s not a whole lot of room for error."
The Eagles further closed the gap in the fifth when a bases-loaded grounder by Michael Burruss drove in freshman Ben Morgan, who reached base with one out on Esch’s second error of the day.
Victor Roache hit his third home run of the season in the sixth to cut the GSU deficit to 5-4.
The Yellow Jackets added an insurance run in the eighth and ninth innings.
Scooter Williams got his first start in the outfield for Georgia Southern. The sophomore rolled his ankle in the week leading up to Friday’s season opener, and made a lot of noise in his first game. He singled in each of his first three at-bats, and turned a double play in the top of the fifth.
Daniel Palka got things started for the Yellow Jackets with a double and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt, but after Thomas lined out to Williams in right, Williams nailed Palka at the plate with a one-hopper.
"It was good to get him out on the field today and see him do well," Hennon said about Williams. "That was a nice play on the throw home, and he throws it pretty well out there.
Willaims and Roache combined for five of GSU’s eight hits.
Justin Hess struck out three in his first start of the season, going three innings and allowing three runs on six hits. Lefty Joe Lower got a bulk of the work, pitching four strong innings, giving up two hits and a run.
The Eagles will have a day off today before returning to axction in a three-game series beginning Friday at home against N.C. Central.
"I think it’s very important we have a good day of practice," Hennon said. "We’ll pick some things that we have to work on after we get a chance to sit down and review the last couple days. We’ve just got to get better. It’s early in the year, and we’ve got to keep making improvements as a team. We’d like to get a few more guys involved."
: After the No. 1 crowd in J.I. Clements Stadium history, 3,088, watched Tuesday’s 6-5 win, the fifth-largest crowd in program history, 2,345, showed up Wednesday. … Shawn Payne, who saw a 12-game hitting streak dating back to last season come to an end Tuesday, extended his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 34 after singling in the fifth Wednesday.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.