Baseball: Ga. Tech sinks St. John’s, rolls to 6-1

ATLANTA — From March through June, nationally ranked Georgia Tech will have ample opportunities to contend for an ACC championship (regular season/tournament) and/or a trip to the College World Series.

For non-conference games in February, though, the goals are a little smaller — but nonetheless important.

On a picturesque Sunday at Russ Chandler Stadium, the Yellow Jackets got a measure of redemption against St. John’s, routing the Red Storm 10-1 and avenging their only defeat of the season (from Saturday night).

Georgia Tech (6-1) had no shortage of stars in the rubber-match victory: First baseman Daniel Palka notched three hits, one RBI and one run. Freshman Matt Gonzalez (three hits, three RBI, two runs) sparked the Jackets’ five-run fifth inning with a bases-clearing double. And sophomore pitcher Cole Pitts (2-0) stifled St. John’s hitters, surrendering only one run and four hits over six solid innings.

“I thought (Pitts) got better as the game (progressed),” said Jackets head coach Danny Hall, noting Pitts’ stellar command in his final two innings.

Of his 78 pitches, Pitts made short work of the Red Storm hitters, routinely staying ahead in the count and rarely feeling the pressure of multiple runners on the base paths. At the beginning of the outing, Pitts relied on his cut-fastball to work out of jams; by the end, he had found a groove with the changeup.

Throwing first-pitch strikes “is always a high priority,” Pitts said. “That gives you command of what your next pitch will be, compared to a (second) pitch that has to be a strike.” 

He later added: “I like throwing on Sundays. Sometimes, it’s the deciding games (of a weekend series), or sometimes it’s putting away a sweep.”

After losing the nightcap of a doubleheader on Saturday, Georgia Tech could only focus on starting a new winning streak against St. John’s (1-6). The win launched a busy week for the Yellow Jackets, who’ll embark on a two-game road trip to Georgia Southern (Tuesday/Wednesday) before hosting another Big East foe — Rutgers — next weekend.

“I enjoy playing teams that make you have to play (your best),” says Hall, now in his 20th season leading the Georgia Tech program. “The one thing about St. John’s, from top to bottom with (its) pitching, we won’t see many better staffs.”

As for the ACC slate, which begins in 12 days (against Virginia Tech), Hall is excited to see how his club stacks up in one of the nation’s premier leagues.

“I think it takes a little time, but we have some ingredients that are pretty good,” Hall said. “As usual, it’ll come down to where you’re at with your pitching, and what kind of pitching depth you have.”