ATLANTA, Ga. – Jake Atwell led a 12-run, 15-hit attack by Virginia Tech as the Hokies defeated No. 14 Georgia Tech, 12-9, on Saturday evening at Russ Chandler Stadium in the second game of the ACC series.
Atwell was 4-for-5 with four runs scored, three RBI and hit two of the Hokies’ four home runs in the game to help the team improve to 15-5 overall and 2-3 in the ACC. Georgia Tech rallied late, scoring nine runs after the fifth frame but came up short as the Yellow Jackets fell to 13-6 and 2-3 in league play.
The game started with a bang for the Hokies, as Atwell blasted the first pitch in the contest over the right field wall and was followed four pitches later with a Mark Zagunis home run and the Hokies went on top 2-0.
The last time Tech hit back-to-back home runs to start a game was on Feb. 25, 2011 when Tony Balisteri and Tim Smalling each went deep – the team hit seven in that contest – and that game was also started by Saturday’s starter Joe Mantiply, who won that day 17-9.
Early on, it did not look like Mantiply would need that much help in this one, allowing just three base runners – two singles and an error – through five frames. Even in the sixth, when he surrendered his first run, Georgia Tech didn’t even register a hit in the inning.
By that point, Virginia Tech had manufactured six more runs as they had taken an 8-0 lead. In the second, Andrew Rash scored from second on a sacrifice bunt by Alex Perez; in the third, Atwell scored again on a Chad Pinder single; in the fifth, Tyler Horan hit a two-run home run scoring Pinder; and Atwell hit a two-run home run, scoring Chad Morgan.
That’s when it got interesting as Georgia Tech plated four runs in the seventh, which chased Mantiply, as the Yellow Jackets sent 10 men to the plate in the frame.
The Hokies responded with three of their own in the eighth, with Rash connecting on a two-RBI double and then scoring on pinch-hitter Kyle Wernicki’s RBI double.
But again, Georgia Tech scored four runs to make it an 11-9 game entering the ninth. Johnny Morales singled home Atwell to give the Hokies a three-run cushion heading into the bottom of the inning.
Jake Joyce was called upon to close out the game, and he did it by striking out the side and earning his first save of the year. Mantiply improved to 3-0 with the win, while Matt Grimes dropped to 3-2 with the loss.
The two teams will play the final game of the three-game series on Sunday with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m.
Additional Notes: Tech is still out to its best start in 20 years with 15 wins in 20 games – both the 2003 and 2010 teams were 13-7 20 games in and the 1993 squad was 17-3. The Hokies are 7-0 when scoring at least 10 runs. Today marked the ninth time (all wins) in the last 12 games, the Hokies have registered at least 10 hits. Atwell also stole two bases, while Tech stole five in the game. Last season, they stole 50 as a team, so far this year, they’ve swiped 36. After today, Hokie pinch-hitters are now 7-for-14 with three RBI hits.
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