ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech center fielder Daniel Spingola picked a dramatic time to extend his streak for reaching base safely.
The senior broke a tie at 1 with a three-run homer in the seventh inning that hit the top of the wall in right-center field and paved the way for Georgia Tech’s 4-3 win over Mercer on Tuesday at Russ Chandler Stadium.
“He won the big moment,” Mercer head coach Craig Gibson said.
The Yellow Jackets began the winning rally with an innocuous two-out walk to first baseman Brandon Gold, who went to third on a single by catcher Arden Pabst. That chased reliever Mitchell Wade (1-1), who was replaced by lefty Austin Lord.
Spingola took the first pitch for a strike and drove Lord’s second offering for a home run, his second. Spignola has reached base safely in a career-best 24 straight games.
“I finally got the barrel on one,” Spingola said. “(The streak) was in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t really thinking about it. I just tried to let my hands go.”
Georgia Tech (22-11) got a stellar effort from left-hander Ben Parr. The sophomore (5-1) pitched a career-high 7-1/3 innings and allowed three runs on six hits with four strikeouts and one walk. Zach Ryan pitched 1-2/3 scoreless innings to earn his sixth save. He struck out two and allowed one hit.
The Yellow Jackets are now 6-0 against in-state opposition. Mercer beat Georgia Tech twice last year.
“It’s nice to finally beat them,” Spingola said.
Mercer (20-14) got five strong innings from right-hander D.J. Johnson, who was making his first start since March 7. Johnson entered the game with a 9.36 ERA, but he allowed only four hits, one run and struck out three. It was the best start of the season for the Adel product.
“He hasn’t been great all year, but he pitched well (Tuesday) and gave us a chance,” Gibson said.
Mercer got a run in the third. Designated hitter Conrad Cornell slammed a one-out double to the gap in left-center, took third on a ground ball and scored on Jackson Ware’s well-placed infield single.
Georgia Tech got the run back in the fourth inning on a long homer from designated hitter A.J. Murray, his fourth. The Yellow Jackets appeared to have another homer in the fifth on a ball struck by first baseman Brandon Gold, but Mercer center fielder Trey Truitt climbed the wall in dead center and kept the ball in the park.
Mercer didn’t go down without a fight. The Bears scored two runs in the eighth on an RBI single by right fielder Jackson Ware and a bloop single by left fielder Nate Moorhouse. But Georgia Tech closer Zac Ryan was able to retire catcher Charlie Madden on a popup to end the threat.
Mercer and Georgia Tech play again May 6 in Macon. Mercer hosts Western Carolina in a three-game series starting Friday, while Georgia Tech hosts Virginia in a three-game set that also begins Friday.
LEWIS HONORED BY SOUTHERN CONFERENCE
Mercer sophomore Kyle Lewis was named the Southern Conference Player of the Month for March, as announced by the conference office.
Lewis led the Bears to a 5-1 mark in conference play during the month, batting a team-best .386 with 21 runs scored, seven home runs and 18 RBI during that stretch. He had a hit in 17 of his 19 contests in March, while closing out the month on a 12-game hitting streak.
The sophomore outfielder’s seven home runs in the month matched or exceeded the season output of any other player in the Southern Conference to that date, as he ranks among the nation’s leaders with 10 home runs season.