ATLANTA (Feb. 14) – Coming off an opening weekend two-game sweep of in-state rival Georgia Southern, this week presents Georgia Tech with a home-and-home series against cross-town rival Georgia State and a three-game home set with Oakland University.
The Jackets (2-0), ranked No. 7 nationally this week by Collegiate Baseball, look to build on a pair of victories in Statesboro last weekend as they kick off their home campaign at Russ Chandler Stadium. Tech has an all-time record of 428-110 (.796) and were 25-6 a year ago.
“It’ll be nice to play at home,” said head coach Danny Hall. “The players look forward to playing in front of the home crowd.”
Sophomore hurlers Rhett Parrott (Dalton, Ga.) and Brad Busbin (Orlando, Fla.) will take the mound for Tech against Georgia State on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Parrott, 3-3 with a 7.36 ERA in 1999, will make just the second start of his career. Wednesday’s home opener will be the first career start for Busbin. The hard-throwing right hander made nine appearances out of the bullpen for the Jackets last year, and started the Jackets’ exhibition game against the Atlanta Braves.
The Panthers enter the series at 1-1 overall, having split a pair of games at Southern Mississippi, a 1999 NCAA Tournament team, last weekend. Despite the distinct edge that the Jackets have held in the series, winning 32 of the last 33, Hall says that doesn’t mean much when the teams take the field.
“I know the series has been one-sided,” said Hall. “Georgia State has played us tough in recent games. All it takes is one pitcher to shut you down in baseball. I fully expect Rhett Parrott to throw very well on Tuesday, and we’ll have a chance to continue our success.”
Offensively, the Jackets showed their multi-dimensional attack against Georgia Southern, using three home runs, including two by freshman Tyler Parker (Marietta, Ga.) in Saturday’s 15-3 season opening win. Sunday, Tech relied on nine singles and aggressive baserunning to pull out a 7-6 win over the Eagles.
“The biggest thing to focus on is that we found a way to win,” said Hall. “Saturday, we had several extra base hits and demonstrated a lot of power. Sunday, we had to find other ways to win. We got a chance, and held on. That’s the positive sign.”
Sophomore third baseman Mark Teixeira (Severna Park, Md.) led the Jackets over the weekend, going 5-for-10 with a home run and four RBI. The rest of Tech’s infield includes sophomore Victor Menocal (Gainesville, Ga.), .222, 3 RBI, at shortstop and sophomore Richard Lewis (Marietta, Ga.), .400, at second base. First base will be a combination of Parker and freshman Jason Perry (Jonesboro, Ga.), .333, and junior Derik Goffena (Sidney, Ohio).
Juniors Jason Basil (West Chester, Ohio), .400, and Bryan Prince (Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.), .200, share catching duties, while sophomore Wes Rynders (Marietta, Ga.), .222, and junior Brad Stockton (Marietta, Ga.), .250, are regular starters in center and right field. Perry, Basil and senior Jahmal Overton (Chattanooga, Tenn.), .429, share duties in left field.
Cory Vance (Vandalia, Ohio) is scheduled get the start on Saturday against Oakland, looking for his second victory of the season. The junior southpaw allowed just one run and six hits in six innings of work in the season opener.
The Golden Grizzlies (0-0) are an unfamiliar opponent to the Jackets. The suburban Detroit school is in its second year of play at the Division I level, having completed their 1999 campaign with a 17-25 record. Regardless, Danny Hall says this is a team not to take lightly.
“After we scheduled them last spring, they beat Michigan in Ann Arbor,” said Hall. “Michigan later went on to win the Big Ten Tournament, so I’m not sure exactly what to expect from them. There are a lot of good baseball players in that area.”
SERIES VS. GEORGIA STATE
Georgia Tech leads the all-time series with Georgia State, 36-4. The Yellow Jackets have won the last 14 meetings between the schools and 32 of the last 33.
A year ago, Tech knocked off the Panthers on back-to-back days, with a 14-8 win in Panthersville, followed by a 9-3 win at Russ Chandler Stadium. Rhett Parrott. who will start Tuesday’s game at Georgia State, pitched 3 2/3 innings in the 14-8 win, allowing three runs and two hits while recording the save.
SERIES VS. OAKLAND
This weekend’s series between Tech and the Michigan school will be the first contests between the two schools. Tech is 6-5-1 all-time against schools from the Great Lake State, having played Michigan, Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan and Western Michigan. Tech also played a two-game exhibition series in 1922 against the Detroit Tigers.
TECH LOOKS TO MIRROR 1997 START
Tech’s 2-0 start is their first since 1997, a season which saw the Jackets capture their first 10 games and start the year 28-2. Tech went on to finish 46-15 and 19-4 in the ACC during that campaign, while winning the ACC regular season title. The Jackets’ 2-0 start in 1997 also was the result of a pair of season-opening wins at Georgia Southern.
BACK HOME AT THE OLD “RUSTY C”
Tech’s home opener on Wednesday marks the beginning of the 16th season of Georgia Tech baseball at Russ Chandler Stadium. RCS has particularly been unfriendly to opponents outside the Atlantic Coast Conference, as the Jackets are 303-71 against non-conference opposition at Russ Chandler, and 18-1 a year ago against such foes.
The facility could be in for a new look in the upcoming years as the Atlanta architectural firms of Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart and Stewart and Rosser International are in the process of a feasibility study for the expansion and renovation of RCS. Initial drawings of the proposed plans were unveiled at the team’s annual benefit dinner on Feb. 4, which included 5,000 permanent seats, a new playing surface, and a renovated concourse and stadium facade. The final plans for the project are expected in the upcoming weeks.
GETTING OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT
If freshman Tyler Parker had any nervousness about playing in his first collegiate game last Saturday, it surely didn’t show. Parker drove the first pitch he saw from GSU starter Brett Lewis over the right-center field fence. Three innings later, Parker did it again, blowing a 7-1 game open with a three-run blast to center field. Unofficially, Parker totaled three home runs in his first four plate appearances with the two against Georgia Southern following one in his only at-bat of Tech’s Alumni Game on Feb. 5. Parker played first base and right field at Georgia Southern, and will get time behind the plate as the season progresses.
SAVING THE DAY
Aside from the solid offensive performance put forth by the Jackets last week, the Tech bullpen picked up two saves and kept the Jackets in Sunday’s game.
Freshman Jeff Watchko (Roswell, Ga.) pitched three innings in relief of Cory Vance to earn a save on Saturday, while Sunday’s game featured outstanding middle relief work by senior Ben Sheeter (Lilburn, Ga.) and sophomore Kevin Cameron (Joliet, Ill.) before closer Andy Mitchell (Conyers, Ga.) came on for his first save of the season.
Sheeter and Cameron combined to allow just one earned run and four hits in 5 2/3 innings of relief as the Jackets rallied from a 2-0 deficit.
This Week in Tech Baseball
Tuesday at Georgia State 4 p.m.Wednesday GEORGIA STATE* 4 p.m.Saturday OAKLAND* 1:30 p.m.Sunday OAKLAND 1:30 p.m.Monday OAKLAND* 4 p.m.* radio broadcast on WREK (91.1 FM)