ATLANTA (April 3) – Finding themselves at the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference standings after three series, Georgia Tech’s baseball squad looks to build on its five-game winning streak this weekend with a three-game set at Maryland.
Tech (23-8, 7-2 ACC) comes off a three-game sweep at NC State last weekend, which moved the Jackets percentage points ahead of Florida State in the league race.
The Terrapins (8-19, 0-6 ACC) have seen opposite fortunes in league play, having been swept by Florida State and Clemson in their two ACC series to date. Regardless, Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall said that Maryland can’t be taken lightly.
“I think the Duke series (in which Tech lost two of three at home) will go a long way,” said Hall. “You have to play well every weekend to have success in this league.”
After three consecutive weeks of five games, the Jackets will have the middle of the week off this week, before leaving for College Park on Thursday afternoon.
“We’ll take Monday off, and practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday,” said Hall. “We may play some intrasquad on Tuesday and Wednesday just to keep the pitchers sharp and allow the batters to see live pitching.”
Hall will turn to junior southpaw Cory Vance (Vandalia, Ohio), 6-1, 2.55 ERA, for Friday’s opener against the Terps. Vance picked up his sixth win of the season last Friday night at NC State, throwing a complete-game two-hitter in Tech’s 13-1 victory. Vance’s two-hitter was the first since Jase Wrigley two-hit Southwestern Louisiana in the 1997 NCAA Regionals. Vance stands at 3-0 in league play, and has allowed one run or less in five of his seven starts in 2000.
For Saturday’s and Sunday’s contests, Hall will choose between senior Ben Sheeter (Lilburn, Ga.), 0-2, 6.39, sophomores Rhett Parrott (Dalton, Ga.), 3-2, 4.76, Steve Kelly (Fairfield, Ohio), 4-1, 4.64, and freshman Jeff Watchko (Roswell, Ga.), 2-0, 2.40. Parrott and Kelly got the starts in Raleigh last weekend, although Parrott was knocked out of Saturday’s contest after just 1-1/3 innings after being struck by a line drive. The injury is not serious.
“Kelly’s thrown much better his last three starts,” said Hall. “It’s very encouraging to see him throw the way that we know he can. When we went up to NC State, he didn’t expect to start, and then came in and gave us a great outing.”
At the plate, the Jackets’ lineup continues to be anchored by leadoff hitter Richard Lewis (Marietta, Ga.), .480, 3 HR, 31 RBI, and third baseman Mark Teixeira (Severna Park, Md.), .447, 8 HR, 35 RBI. Lewis hit safely in each of the Jackets’ five games a week ago, to increase his hitting streak to 21 games. Teixeira posted multi-hit games in each game a week ago, raising his average nearly .050, while going 14-for-21 (.667) at the plate.
Sophomore Victor Menocal (Gainesville, Ga.), .305, 2 HR, 18 RBI, is the everyday starter at shortstop, and saw his average climb above the .300 mark on Sunday, after posting his fourth consecutive multi-hit game.
Junior Derik Goffena (Sidney, Ohio), .294, 1 HR, 25 RBI, has taken over as the primary first baseman, with junior Bryan Prince (Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.), .355, 3 HR, 29 RBI, seeing the majority of the time behind the plate. Freshman Tyler Parker (Marietta, Ga.), .278, 7 HR, 26 RBI, has seen time both at first base and as a catcher, while handling designated hitter duties on days not playing the field.
The Tech outfield consists of juniors Jason Basil (West Chester, Ohio), .302, 2 HR, 23 RBI, and Brad Stockton (Marietta, Ga.), .286, 2 HR, 15 RBI, in left and right field respectively, while sophomore Wes Rynders (Marietta, Ga.), .254, 17 RBI, is the everyday center fielder.
Improvement in Tech’s starting pitching has been a critical component towards the Jackets’ winning 14 of their last 16. Dating back to Mar. 3, the Jackets’ staff has only allowed more than five earned runs once (six vs. NC State on Saturday night). Over that span, the team ERA has fallen from 4.89 to 3.76.
The Jackets have also gotten excellent relief pitching from sophomore Kevin Cameron (Joliet, Ill.), 3-1, 2.54, and junior Andy Mitchell (Conyers, Ga.), 3-0, 3.71.
“Our starting pitching has been very good,” said Hall. “It’s very encouraging to me that heading into the second half our pitching has come around as a staff. Not only the starters, but the whole staff. Saturday night, Kevin Cameron, Andy Mitchell and Jeff Watchko came on and allowed just one hit over the final four innings.”
SERIES VS. MARYLAND
Friday afternoon’s contest between the Georgia Tech and Maryland in College Park will mark the 59th meeting in the all-time series. Tech holds a 41-17 advantage all-time against Maryland, and has won 15 of the last 16. A year ago in Atlanta, Tech swept the three-game series from the Terrapins. Maryland’s last win came in the second game of a doubleheader in College Park in 1998, in which the Terrapins captured a 3-2 decision in a seven-inning contest.
TECH ADDS TWO HOME GAMES TO SCHEDULE
Making up for the two games that were washed out in California earlier this month, the Jackets have added a pair of home games to their 2000 schedule. Tech will host The Citadel on April 12 at 4 p.m. and East Tennessee State on May 3 at 7 p.m. The game against ETSU will be broadcast on WREK-FM (91.1).
TEIXEIRA TURNS IT ON
Whether one would call it being “in the zone” or just a hot streak, Mark Teixeira fits the definition. Teixeira, second on the squad in batting average at .447, has posted multi-hit games in each of his last eight games, while going 14-for-21 in last week’s play. The sophomore switch-hitting third baseman has turned his game up a notch as ACC play kicked off, as Teixeira is 18-for-36 (.500) against conference foes.