THE FLATS -- Georgia Tech baseball got eight strikeouts and 124 pitches from the sophomore tandem of Xzavion Curry and Connor Thomas to defeat the Minnesota Gophers 3-2 in the two teams' 2018 season opener on Friday evening at Russ Chandler Stadium.
Tech starts off the season at 1-0 for the sixth-straight year, while Minnesota falls to 0-1 to start 2018.
The Yellow Jackets are 24-1 in home openers since 1994, Danny Hall's first season on The Flats, and have won 13-straight home openers at Russ Chandler Stadium.
Making his second-straight Opening Day start in only his second year on The Flats, Curry (1-0) picked up the win going 5.0 strong innings, allowing just two runs on three hits, while striking out three batters.
Thomas (1) did the rest, as the sophomore recorded his first career save with a career-high five strikeouts over a career-long 4.0 innings of scoreless work.
After missing all of last season due to injury, Tristin English returned to the lineup to go 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored, while Kel Johnson (0-for-4, RBI) and Nick Wilhite (0-for-2, SF, RBI) drove in the other two Jacket runs.
Freshman outfielder Baron Radcliff (1-for-4) picked up his first career hit in his GT debut.
The defense was superb for the Jackets as well, as Tech turned two timely double plays to help keep Minnesota out of scoring position. Freshman Luke Waddell had two outstanding catches in foul territory at third base, an over the shoulder basket catch and a catch that carried him into the stands, while Nick Wilhite had a great grab up against the wall in center field to take away an extra base hit.
Catcher Joey Bart also threw out one would be base stealer and picked off another on first to help get the Jackets out of two other jams.
Minnesota was led by Jordan Kozicky (2-for-4, 2 HR, 2 RBIs) who hit not one, but two solo home runs over the first three innings of play.
The loss went to Reggie Meyer (0-1), as he surrendered all three Tech runs, two of which were earned, over 4.0 innings of work.
After Minnesota took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first by way of Kozicky's first home run of the game, the Yellow Jackets pushed across a run on an English hit by pitch, a Radcliff bloop single and a Johnson ground out to tie the game up at 1-1 after two innings of play.
The Gophers' Kozicky gave the visitors the lead again in the top of the third with another solo shot, before a two-out RBI single by English plated Bailey in the bottom of the third to knot the score back up at 2-2.
One inning later, Tech played small ball to take the lead as Johnson reach on an error then advanced to second on an Austin Wilhite single. Waddell followed with a sacrifice bunt to put both runners in scoring position for Nick Wilhite who hit a deep sacrifice fly to center field to score Johnson and put the home team up 3-2 after four innings.
Curry, Thomas and the defense did the rest, as Curry sent the Gophers down 1-2-3 in the fifth before handing the ball over to Thomas who gave up two hits in the eighth, but was helped out by a Bart pickoff at first base and a 5-4-3 double play, and then struck out the side in the ninth to seal the 3-2 win.
The Yellow Jackets (1-0) will host the Bradley Braves tomorrow at 2 p.m. in game two of the three-game Atlanta Challenge this weekend.
-- GeorgiaTech Baseball (@GTBaseball) February 17, 2018