CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – Saturday’s game featuring No. 2 Georgia Tech and No. 5 Virginia looked to be a “ramblin’ wreck” for Georgia Tech after starter Brandon Cumpton threw eleven straight balls to begin the bottom of the first inning. Cumpton, who couldn’t navigate the strike zone whatsoever on Saturday, recorded no outs against five batters before Georgia Tech coach Bobby Hall pulled the plug on his day—Cumpton left the game having already surrendered two runs (he would be credited with four Virginia runs) on four walks and a two-RBI single to Virginia freshman Stephen Bruno.
The Yellow Jackets had a lot of moxie on Saturday though, and refused to give up. Freshman RHP Buck Farmer entered the game in relief for Cumpton in the first inning, and spearheaded the 9-7 Georgia Tech comeback victory with six strong innings of relief.
Farmer’s first few pitches, which were mostly balls, indicated that he was no better of a relief option than Cumpton was—he also immediately conceded a two-RBI single to the first batter he faced, Virginia catcher John Hicks. Farmer, however, gained a large amount of composure as he started to record outs.
Farmer held Virginia scoreless from the third inning until the sixth inning, continually fooling batters with a large dose of his mid-70s MPH curveball. Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets started to heat up the bats and rally back into the game much like Virginia previously did on Friday.
Georgia Tech’s rally from 5-0 down began when Virginia starter Robert Morey gave up a leadoff single to Thomas Nichols in the third. After Morey recorded two outs, Jeff Rowland hit a single down the first-base line that deflected off a diving Kenny Swab’s glove. Derek Dietrich then crushed a no-doubt three-run home run to right field, which pulled the Yellow Jackets within two runs of Virginia at 5-3.
Dietrich would start another Georgia Tech rally in the fifth inning when he hit an RBI single to score Evan Martin, cutting the lead to 5-4. On the next pitch, Tony Plagman hit opposite field three-home run right over the left field porch to give Georgia Tech a 7-5 lead. The ball was surely carried by the right-to-left wind that was present at that moment, and barely squeaked inside the foul pole and travelled the requisite 335 feet (the distance to the left field wall) to be a traditional home run.
Virginia starter Robert Morey seemingly pitched well in the ballgame. Like Danny Hultzen and Deck McGuire last night, Morey’s outing did not seem outstandingly poor—his stat line wasn’t quite representative of his performance. Nonetheless, Morey did not make the pitches to Georgia Tech’s best hitters and faced the consequences.
Virginia coach Brian O’Connor agreed that Morey’s stat line was harsh towards his pitching performance of Saturday, and actually looked to extend Morey deep into the game. Morey was still holding his velocity and maintaining generally good control even into the latter stretch of his start.
“I sent Morey back out there in the 6th inning hoping to stretch him out one more inning, since it was the bottom of their order. But after their leadoff walk, I went to pull him out,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor inserted freshman starlet Branden Kline in to stop the bleeding, but to little avail. After Kline entered the game, a series of defensive lapses allowed Georgia Tech to turn a 7-5 lead into a 9-5 lead.
With one out and runners at second and third, nine-hitter Evan Martin grounded into a fielder’s choice to third baseman Proscia, who stepped on third base for one out but made an errant throw to first which advanced Jacob Esch to third base. Martin moved to second on a passed ball and both runners scored when Danny Hultzen let a Jeff Rowland dribbler role through his legs into shallow right field.
Virginia would break its scoring drought in the seventh inning, through a sacrifice fly by Jarrett Parker, but Georgia Tech’s bullpen held firm for the rest of the game. The Cavaliers brought the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth with two runners on base and two outs, but freshman Chris Taylor was unable to capitalize on the opportunity and flew out to left field to end the 9-7 Georgia Tech game.
Georgia Tech “stole” this game much like Virginia stole the Friday game from the straights of defeat. The resilient Yellow Jackets took away many positive points from the game, including increased confidence in the lineup and in Buck Farmer’s potential as a future weekend starter.
The Cavaliers took away many positive points as well, such as Branden Kline’s positive outing. Kline, who was originally inserted into the 7-5 game as a middle reliever, was given the green light to pitch the rest of the game after Georgia Tech’s lead was extended. Kline, who only allowed one unearned run on no walks, was pleased about his performance and optimistic about his ability to become a key pitcher for the Cavaliers.
“I’m having fun up there… just trying to help the team win. Definitely coming out of the bullpen… will help me develop my pitches. There’s an emphasis on throwing less fastball and working on the secondary pitches, which will help me become a better pitcher,” Kline said.
Kline’s four-inning appearance will exclude him from Sunday’s game. However, Kline’s performance also enabled star relievers Tyler Wilson and Kevin Arico, who both struck out the side in their respective innings on Friday, to rest their arms and become active and flexible bullpen options for tomorrow.
The bullpens will likely play a huge factor in tomorrow’s game, as they have so far in this very close series. Tomorrow’s (Sunday) game starts at 12:00pm at the UVA Baseball Field.