Virginia went into the opener of its three-game set against Georgia Tech with the longest home winning streak in the history of its program intact.
The log of consecutive victories at Disharoon Park dating back to last season came to end at 19, though, on Friday.
UVa couldn’t overcome an uncharacteristically sloppy first inning and the Hoos left too many men on base in its bid to rally past the Yellow Jackets, who took the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division clash, 6-4, in Charlottesville.
The difference was Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada’s long, two-run homer that cleared the bleachers in left field during the fourth inning to extend the visiting Jackets’ lead to 6-3. For Parada, one of the top MLB Draft prospects in college baseball, it was his third homer in the last two games and 11th of the campaign.
“He’s a heck of a player,” UVa skipper Brian O’Connor said of Parada. “He’s got a bunch of home runs and drove that slider out of here, which was a big hit in the ballgame.”
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Parada’s blast provided Georgia Tech (18-9, 5-5 ACC) its largest advantage in a contest it led from start to finish and furthered the deficit the Cavaliers (23-3, 7-3 ACC) were already trying to narrow.
In the home fifth, UVa was able to get one of those runs back on Alex Tappen’s RBI single that scored Griff O’Ferrall. After the single by Tappen, Chris Newell’s line-drive base hit — which ricocheted off Georgia Tech starter Chance Huff — packed the bags full and prompted the Yellow Jackets to turn to reliever Aeden Finateri. He ended the larger threat when he retired Cavaliers freshman Casey Saucke on a fly out to deep right.
An inning later, the Hoos loaded the bases again against Finateri and with no outs, they had the most powerful part of their lineup — Kyle Teel, Devin Ortiz and Jake Gelof — due to the plate.
But they couldn’t get any runs across.
Teel, who entered Friday 4-for-4 with three grand slams in bases-loaded situations this spring, struck out and so did Devin Ortiz against hard-throwing reliever Zach Maxwell. Gelof sprayed a soft liner, which looked destined to drop in short left field, but Jackets shortstop Jadyn Jackson made a leaping, juggling catch to end the inning.
Maxwell (2-0) earned the win for his four shutout frames through the ninth, and in total, UVa left 12 runners on base.
“I thought our guys’ approach was good,” O’Connor said. “They believed we could win the game. We just couldn’t do it, and that’s what happens.”
The Cavaliers were able to stay within striking distance in the middle and later parts of the bout, thanks to dominant pitching out of their own bullpen. Relievers Dylan Bowers and Jay Woolfolk combined for five scoreless, hitless frames and eight strikeouts.
Woolfolk struck out Parada with a runner on first in the ninth. Until Woolfolk’s punch out, Parada had reached base in four straight plate appearances.
“The key in that at-bat, to me, was that you’ve got to hit your spots against someone like him,” Woolfolk said. “He will make you pay, and he did [earlier in the game]. He had the big one today, so with him, you’ve got to give him credit because he’s a very good hitter and he’ll get drafted in the first round, so I just attacked him and did the best I can.”
Bowers said his responsibility and Woolfolk’s responsibility was to give UVa’s offense — the ACC’s leader in runs scored — as many opportunities for a comeback as possible.
Bowers followed starter Nate Savino, and Georgia Tech struck early against Savino (4-1). He issued a pair of walks and gave up an RBI single in the first inning. And he would’ve gotten through the opening inning without giving up anything more than the one run yielded, but what should’ve been a 1-2-3 double play wasn’t when first baseman Ortiz dropped an on-target throw from catcher Teel allowing another run to score and the inning to continue.
UVa scored once in the home half of the first, but the Yellow Jackets tallied two more runs against Savino in the second. The Cavaliers put one across in the second and in the third, but were playing catch-up throughout the evening and it only got more difficult after Savino surrendered the homer to Parada in the fourth.
Savino, who went into his start having allowed only eight earned runs through his first six starts this season, allowed five earned runs in four innings on Friday. Georgia Tech worked lengthy at-bats against Savino, forcing the lefty ace into full counts on five occasions. Parada drew a 10-pitch walk in the first inning to begin tiring Savino.
“It was part of it,” O’Connor said of Georgia Tech’s tough turns at bat and success against Savino. “He threw 94 pitches in four innings and that’s a credit to them. They strung out a lot of at-bats and fouled a lot of pitches off. He just couldn’t put ‘em away, but Georgia Tech has always had a tremendous offensive approach.”
Note: Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday at 4 p.m. Probable pitchers are left-handers Cody Carwile (2-1, 1.45) for Georgia Tech and Brian Gursky (5-0, 2.00) for UVa.