Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
Georgia Tech's Matt Grimes (25) pitches during the Yellow Jackets' game against Georgia on Tuesday. Grimes pitched 62/3 and had 10 strikeouts.
ATLANTA — As much as he would like to break into Georgia Tech’s weekend pitching rotation, Matthew Grimes seems to have taken to his role as the Yellow Jackets midweek starter.
The Mill Creek grad threw 62⁄3 innings and struck out 10 — both highs for his brief college career — as Tech scored a 5-3 victory over archival Georgia on Tuesday before 2,155 fans at Russ Chandler Stadium.
Daniel Palka went 2-for-4, including a two-run home run, to help Grimes, who has started nine of the 10 midweek games for the nationally ranked Jackets (25-9) and moved to 5-1 on the season.
“It’s an honor to have the opportunity to be the midweek guy,” said the freshman right-hander, who was hit with the customary shaving cream towel to the face by teammate Mark Pope in postgame interviews. “I’m a freshman and I’m happy to have (that) opportunity.”
Grimes, who also beat Georgia (18-16) with six solid innings in Tech’s 25-6 win March 22 at Foley Field in Athens, actually struggled early.
The 2010 Daily Post Pitcher of the Year trailed 1-0 on Colby May’s first home run of the season in the top of the second, and reached the 50-pitch mark early in the third.
But he got out of a two-on, two-out jam in the third, and then escaped even more trouble in the fourth after being given a 2-1 lead on RBIs by Kyle Wren and Jacob Esch in the bottom of the third.
May followed Jonathan Hester’s one-out double with a single, and then advanced to second on a wild pitch to put runners on second and third with still only one out.
But Grimes regrouped and struck out Brandon Stephens, and then got Peter Verdin to ground out to second to keep the Tech lead intact.
“I think one of the things that happened is (Tech pitching) Coach (Tom) Kinkelaar shortened (Grimes’) breaking ball a little bit,” head coach Danny Hall said. “He threw a little shorter breaking ball and he was able to control it. And he had a good fastball. Most of his strikeouts can on his fastball (Tuesday) night. He couldn’t have pitched better, and he gave us a big lift by pitching the way he did.”
The Jackets then gave Grimes a lift in the bottom of the fourth after Palka followed Zane Evans’ leadoff single with a towering two-run homer to right of Georgia starter and Brookwood grad Chase Hawkins (1-2) to extend the lead to 4-1.
Grimes responded by retiring eight in a row at one point and didn’t reach the 100-pitch mark until the seventh inning.
“I felt great,” said Grimes, who scattered eight hits and two earned runs with no walks on the night. “That’s the best I’ve ever felt. … I threw strikes and didn’t walk anybody. … I made (Georgia) put the ball in play and let my defense work.”
But with two outs in the seventh, Grimes began to tire and Levi Hyams chased him from the game with an RBI single that brought the Bulldogs to within 4-2.
Wesleyan grad Conor Welton then brought the potential go-ahead run to the plate by sneaking a single past a diving Esch at short on GAC grad Taylor Wood’s first pitch.
But Dusty Isaacs struck out Kyle Farmer to keep Tech in front.
The two teams exchanged runs on Matt Skole’s RBI double in the seventh and Parkview grad’s Zach Cone’s solo homer in the eighth to make the score 5-3.
Luke Bard came on in the ninth and shut the door with the potential tying runs on base by getting Farmer to ground to third to record his fifth save of the season.
“Tip your hat to Grimes. He pitched a great game,” Georgia coach Dave Perno said. “We had our chances, and he benefited. … We felt like we had some good at bats, and you look up and next thing you know, it was a tough night for us.”
Hawkins, the 2008 Daily Post Player of the Year, didn’t pitch poorly despite giving up seven hits and four runs with two strikeouts and one walk in four innings for Georgia.
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