ATLANTA — Who needs to wear green to attract good luck on St. Patrick’s Day … when they’ve already got a time-tested, day-specific rabbit’s foot in the hopper?
Dressed in classic whites with blue and gold trim, Georgia Tech relied on timely hitting, good fielding and the superb pitching of Cole Pitts, the regular Sunday starter, to beat Boston College 9-1 and clinch a weekend sweep of the Eagles.
With the victory, the Yellow Jackets (17-2, 5-1) remained in a first-place tie with North Carolina in the ACC’s Coastal Division. Georgia Tech also maintained its three-way stronghold on the conference’s best record — setting the stage for next weekend’s showdown series with Florida State (Atlantic Division leaders).
Prior to that, though, Tech has a Tuesday home date with Georgia Southern, before trekking to Tallahassee.
Regarding Sunday’s effort, the final score was not reflective of the game’s intensity. With two outs in the seventh, a BC runner on second base and Georgia Tech nursing a 2-1 lead, manager Danny Hall replaced Pitts (zero earned runs, four strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings) for reliever Alex Cruz.
It was an especially tense moment for a club that already has 14 victories with a differential of five runs or more on the season. But Cruz quickly put out the small fire, forcing a BC groundout to end the inning.
“(Pitts’) pitch count was getting up there, and we just felt like Cruz’s breaking ball on that particular hitter (Joe Cronin) was a good matchup,” said Hall after the game.
From that point forward, the Georgia Tech bats came alive, scoring three runs in the seventh (thanks to Zane Evans’ two-run double) and then four back-breakers in the eighth (highlighted by Daniel Palka’s RBI double off the left-field wall). Among the hitters, Brandon Thomas (two runs) took honors with three hits.
“(The Eagles) made us play” the whole game, said Hall, Georgia Tech’s head coach of 20 years. “But I kind of felt like that hopefully, sooner or later, we’d start getting some runs. And we finally got through.”
As for Pitts (93 pitches), he improved to 4-1 on the year — all Sunday starts — with a 2.17 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 20/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. But he also had his share of early foibles, allowing runners to reach base and then needing the help of his defense to collect a double play or two.
On the whole, though, Hall said his ace was “in pretty good control the whole day.”
Pitts (.194 opponents’ batting average) enjoys the role of weekend anchorman, whether it’s helping the Yellow Jackets win a series or go for the sweep.
“I like (the Sunday pressure) being placed on my shoulders, and having to go out there and get my team a win,” said Pitts, who will most likely pitch the finale against Florida State next weekend.
The FSU series represents Georgia Tech’s biggest test to date, and a good barometer for whether the club will be serious contenders for back-to-back ACC titles.
“Anytime you can play Florida State, you’re excited about playing them,” said Hall, whose club banged out 14 hits against Boston College (3-15, 0-6). “(The Seminoles) always play really well in Tallahassee.”
Sunday’s victory was especially welcome, since Hall didn’t have the greatest feeling about it in the pregame.
He joked, “Maybe I need to look at that calendar a little better. I was a little nervous because their coach reminded me (before the game) that (Boston College) is a Jesuit school, they’re wearing green because it’s St. Patty’s Day, and the new pope is a Jesuit.”