No. 1 Tech Baseball Opens Season This Weekend at Georgia Southern

Feb. 12, 2003

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Georgia Tech, the nation’s top-ranked team according to Baseball America, opens the 2003 season this weekend in Statesboro, Ga., for a two-game series against Georgia Southern. The Yellow Jackets will be opening the season at Georgia Southern’s J.I. Clements Stadium for the fourth time in the last seven years, and Tech is playing a February series in Statesboro for the 18th consecutive season.

The two-game series begins on Saturday at 1:30 p.m., and continues on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Tech and Georgia Southern will conclude the annual four-game series when the Eagles travel to Atlanta in April. Live statistics for this weekend’s games can be found on www.RamblinWreck.com.

GEORGIA TECH UPDATE (0-0 in 2003)

Georgia Tech opens 2003 following one of the most successful seasons in school history. The Yellow Jackets are coming off their second trip to the College World Series, and Tech set a school record with 52 victories in 2002. Georgia Tech opens the 2003 season as the nation’s No. 1 team according to Baseball America, and holds a top five ranking in the two other polls. Tech is opening the season as the nation’s No. 1 team for the second time in the last three years.

Tech returns each of its top 10 pitchers from last season, including staff ace Kyle Bakker, who will start the season opener for the second consecutive year. The Yellow Jackets return five everyday starters from last year’s College World Series club, losing starters at catcher, first base, shortstop, and third base.

Head coach Danny Hall enters his 10th season at Georgia Tech needing just four wins to reach 400 in his Yellow Jacket career.

GEORGIA SOUTHERN UPDATE (3-0 in 2003)

Georgia Southern opened the 2003 season last weekend with a three-game sweep of Morris Brown at home. The Eagles outscored Morris Brown 59-8 in the three games, posting wins of 17-1, 25-0 and 17-7, and batting .509 as a team. Second baseman Brandon Burnsed led the attack, batting .556 with a homer and 13 RBI in the three games. GSU will send a pair of right handers to the mound this weekend, starting junior Brian Rogers (1-0, 0.00) on Saturday and sophomore Brian Harrison (1-0, 0.00) on Sunday.

Quoting Danny Hall

ON GEORGIA SOUTHERN:

“I have the utmost respect for their program and their coaches. They have been a regular NCAA Tournament team the last few years. I know they have an outstanding pitching staff, and they are going to play some new position players like we are. I know we will have our hands full. I think it is a great place for us to start our season on the road and in a great atmosphere in front of a lot of people.”

ON TECH’S PITCHING STAFF:

“We need to lean on our pitching staff. On paper we have those guys, but they still have to go out and perform. I fully expect Kyle Bakker and Chris Goodman to pitch very well. It means a lot to know that you have a bullpen that has Jeff Watchko, Brian Burks, Aaron Walker, Micah Owings, Jason Neighborgall and Kyle Schmidt in it. I feel like have a deep pitching staff, but I hope we don’t have to use a bunch of guys this weekend. I feel confident about the way we ahve a chance to pitch it, and I hope that we play good defense.”

ON NEW STARTERS IN THE LINEUP:

“Clifton Remole got a chance to play a good chunk last year, and he is going to be our everyday first baseman this year. I am hoping that he can go in there and hit as well against left handers as he does right handers. Mike Nickeas has some big shoes to fill in Tyler Parker. But Mike played for us some last year. I think he is a great catcher and a great leader and I fully expect him to play well. Davis Myers has been in the program for a while and he is going to get a chance to play on a regular basis for the first time. I think Tyler Greene is a great talent. I am sure he will make some mistakes as most freshmen do, but I think he will play very well. Micah Owings has tremendous bat potential. I feel like we have some good ingredients, and it will be nice to see these guys play against someone other than themselves.”

ON PLAYING ON THE ROAD EARLY:

“Going on the road, particularly in our own state, exposes our program to different parts of the state. Next weekend we get a chance to go to Savannah. We you go on the road you are subject to some adverse conditions, and I think it helps make your team stronger.”

Starting Pitcher Notes

Saturday: KYLE BAKKER (LHP) 13-2, 3.14 ERA in 2002

Junior Kyle Bakker will start the season opener at Georgia Southern for the second consecutive season. Bakker is 17-3 with a 3.05 ERA in 180 career innings pitched, and he currently stands as the top control pitcher in Georgia Tech history with a rate of 1.65 walks per nine innings.

A preseason All-America in 2003, Bakker earned second team All-America honors in 2002 after earning Freshman All-America honors in 2001.

Bakker worked seven shutout innings in the season opener in Statesboro last season, helping Tech post a 10-2 win over the Eagles. Bakker enters the 2003 season having won four consecutive decisions, having not suffered a defeat since April 26, 2002 against Virginia.

The 6-9 lefty spent the summer of 2002 with the USA Baseball National team, and he posted a 3-2 record and a 2.14 ERA in six starts.

Sunday: CHRIS GOODMAN (RHP) 8-2, 4.41 ERA in 2002

Senior Chris Goodman will get the ball in game two of the series at Georgia Southern. The 6-0 right hander ended the 2002 season as Tech’s No. 2 starter, and he posted an 8-2 record and a 4.41 ERA in 81.2 innings of work.

A transfer from NC State following the 2000 season, Goodman made the successful conversion from shortstop to pitcher last season. Goodman pitched one inning of relief in the series at Georgia Southern last year, allowing two runs on three hits in his collegiate pitching debut.

Goodman spent the summer of 2002 with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod League, posting a 2.61 ERA in 20.2 innings of work.

GEORGIA TECH VS. GEORGIA SOUTHERN

GEORGIA TECH LEADS, 62-20

Georgia Tech-Georgia Southern Series Notes:

* Georgia Tech leads Georgia Southern, 62-20, in a series that dates to 1947 when Georgia Southern was known as Georgia Teacher’s College.

* The Yellow Jackets have won 17 straight games in the series dating back to May of 1997.

* Tech has won 12 straight games played in Statesboro, dating back to the 1996 season.

* Georgia Tech holds a 25-10 lead in all games played in Statesboro.

Last year, Georgia Tech swept all four meetings between the two schools. Tech posted wins of 10-2 and 7-4 in the season opening series in Statesboro, and then claimed a 4-3, 10-inning decision and a 9-3 win in a pair of games in Atlanta in April.

Kyle Bakker pitched Tech to a 10-2 win in the season opener, tossing seven shutout innings and allowing just four base hits. Tech won the second game in Statesboro, 7-4, behind three consecutive home runs from Jason Perry, Tyler Parker and Jeremy Slayden.

In the first game in Atlanta, Tech starter Kyle Schmidt worked eight scoreless innings and struck out 10 batters, but Georgia Southern sent the game into extra innings with a ninth inning rally. Tech center fielder Wes Rynders delivered a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Yellow Jackets a 4-3 win.

Tech took a 9-3 in the second game in Atlanta, as Jeff Watchko held the Eagles to one run in seven innings of work and Eric Patterson went 3-for-4 in the game.

HALL APPROACHES 400 WINS AT TECH

Head coach Danny Hall enters the 2003 season with 396 wins in his nine previous years at Georgia Tech, and he needs just four more victories to become the second coach in school history to reach the 400-victory plateau. Jim Morris won 504 games from 1982-93 to rank as the winningest coach in school history. Hall’s winning percentage of .697 (396-172) is currently the best in school history behind Morris’ mark of .674 (504-244-1).

In 16 years as a head coach at Kent State and Georgia Tech, Hall’s career record currently stands at 604-289 (.676).

VERSUS THE STATE OF GEORGIA

Georgia Tech posted a 13-1 mark against its in-state rivals during the 2002 season. Tech’s lone loss came at Georgia on Mar. 26. The Yellow Jackets went 4-0 against Georgia Southern, 2-0 against both Mercer and Georgia State, and 5-1 against Georgia.

Since 1999, Georgia Tech owns a 42-8 record against its in-state foes. The Yellow Jackets are 84-25 against teams from Georgia in 10 years under head coach Danny Hall.

TECH PICKED FIRST IN ACC PRESEASON COACHES POLL

The Atlantic Coast Conference’s nine head coaches selected Georgia Tech as the top pick to win the conference championship in 2003 with six first place votes and a total of 77 points. Florida State finished a close second with 73 points and two first place votes.

Wake Forest finished in third place tallying 65 points and one first place vote. Clemson filled the fourth place slot with 54 points, while North Carolina placed fifth in the balloting with 41 points. The Tar Heels were followed by NC State who finished with 30 points and then Virginia with 29 points. Duke was selected to finish eighth with 19 points and Maryland ninth with 17 points.

TECH OPENS SEASON WITH NO. 1 NATIONAL RANKING

For the second time in the last three years, and for the third time in 10 years under head coach Danny Hall, Georgia Tech opens the season as the No. 1 ranked team in the country. Tech opened as the top team in the polls in 1994 with a team that featured Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek and Jay Payton and lost in the national championship game to Oklahoma. The 2001 team, led by first-round picks Mark Teixeira and Richard Lewis, started No. 1 but failed to advance pas the NCAA Regionals after suffering through an injury-riddled season. For complete information on all of Georgia Tech’s No. 1 rankings in school history, please refer to the chart on page 2 of this packet.

FIVE PLAYERS EARN PRE-SEASON ALL-AMERICA RECOGNITION

Five Georgia Tech players – pitchers Kyle Bakker and Jeff Watchko, outfielders Mat Murton and Jeremy Slayden and second baseman Eric Patterson – were all named to various preseason All-America teams prior to the 2003 season. Bakker and Murton were both named to Baseball America’s first team, while Patterson and Slayden were both second-team selections by that publication.

Bakker was a first-team selection by Collegiate Baseball, Murton and Patterson were tabbed to the second team, while Watchko was a third-team pick.

BEST TOOLS

In Baseball America’s annual college preview issue, the publication broke down the best tools and players in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Five Yellow Jackets were tabbed to the preseason All-ACC team, including second baseman Eric Patterson, outfielders Matt Murton and Jeremy Slayden, utility player Micah Owings, and pitcher Kyle Bakker.

Murton was tabbed the ACC’s No. 2 prospect for the 2003 draft, while Bakker was named the No. 3 prospect. Patterson (No. 2), Owings (No. 3) and Slayden (No. 4) were all among the top five prospects for the 2004 draft.

Owings and Jason Neighborgall were named as the top two newcomers to the ACC this season, while shortstop Tyler Greene was tabbed the fifth best newcomer in the league.

In the best tools categories: Murton was rated No. 3 in best pure hitters, Patterson was No. 1 in best base runner and No. 2 in fastest base runner, Nieghborgall was No. 2 in best fastball, and Bakker was No. 2 in best control. Patterson was named the ACC’s best defensive second baseman.

BEST PLAYERS BY CLASS

Baseball America ranked the top 50 collegiate players in each class for the 2003 season, and Georgia Tech was well represented on that list. Eleven different Yellow Jackets were named to the top 50 lists, including three of the top 10 freshmen, two of the top 10 sophomores and two of the top 10 juniors.

The freshmen included Micah Owings (No. 2), Jason Neighborgall (No. 4) and Tyler Greene (No. 9). Sophomores included Eric Patterson (No. 5), Jeremy Slayden (No. 9), Brandon Boggs (No. 29) and Mike Nickeas (No. 36). The juniors listed Matt Murton (No. 8) and Kyle Bakker (No. 10), while the seniors included Chris Goodman (No. 26) and Jeff Watchko (No. 28).

NINE NAMED TO ACC 50th ANNIVERSARY TEAM

Nine former Yellow Jackets were tabbed to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s 50th Anniversary Baseball Team, a group of the 50 greatest players in the history of ACC baseball. The Tech players selected were: pitcher Kevin Brown (1984-86), shortstop Nomar Garciaparra (1992-94), second baseman Ty Griffin (1986-88), outfielder Riccardo Ingram (1986-87), outfelder Jay Payton (1992-94), pitcher Jim Poole (1985-88), pitcher Brad Rigby (1992-94), third baseman Mark Teixeira (1999-01) and catcher Jason Varitek (1991-94).

Tech ranks second among the nine ACC institutions with nine selections, trailing only Clemson’s 12 honorees, despite only competing in the league for the last 23 years.

NATION’S BEST FRESHMAN CLASS

Tech’s rookie class for this season, which numbers nine freshmen, was ranked as the best recruiting class in the nation by both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. Tech’s recruiting classes have been ranked among the top 16 in the country in each of the last seven years, including the 1998 class featuring Mark Teixeira that was ranked No. 1 in the country.

Under the direction of recruiting coordinator Scott Stricklin, Tech signed 10 players in the early signing period last fall (see list on p. 5), including several players ranked among the nation’s top high school prospects. Many major baseball publications feel that this class will once again rank in the top 15 in the nation.

DRAFT DODGERS

Eleven Georgia Tech players have previously been drafted by major league teams, the highest concentration of drafted players ever on one Yellow Jacket team. The 2000 squad also featured 11 players previously drafted.

The list includes Kyle Bakker (37th round, Philadelphia, 2000), Brandon Boggs (50th, New York Yankees, 2001),Chris Goodman (16th, Florida, 2002), Tyler Greene (2nd, Atlanta, 2002), Jason Neighborgall (7th, Boston, 2002), Micah Owings (2nd, Colorado, 2002), Eric Patterson (23rd, Colorado, 2001), Philip Perry (41st, New York Mets, 1999; 48th, St. Louis, 2002), Kyle Schmidt (29th, Baltimore, 2001), Jeremy Slayden (20th, San Diego, 2001) and Jeff Watchko (18th, Pittsburgh, 2002).

PRO PIPELINE CONTINUES

Three players from last year’s Georgia Tech team were signed to a contract by a major league baseball organization, and the Yellow Jackets had 38 alumni playing or working in professional baseball at various levels last season. The list of alumni includes 18 pitchers, 17 hitters, Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ Director of Played Personnel Cam Bonifay, Atlanta Braves bullpen coach Bobby Dews, and Minnesota Twins’ minor league hitting coach Riccardo Ingram.

YELLOW JACKETS IN THE BIGS

Georgia Tech set an all-time high in 2000 when ten of its alumni baseball players were on major league rosters during the season and then matched that high when 10 former Yellow Jackets played in the big leagues in 2002.

Pitcher Kevin Brown, a first-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers in 1986, pitched the 2001 season for the Los Angeles Dodgers after leading the San Diego Padres and Florida Marlins to the World Series in 1998 and 1997, respectively. All-America shortstop Nomar Garciaparra has become a popular figure in Boston for the Red Sox and is a two-time American League Batting Champion, while his Tech teammate and all-America catcher Jason Varitek has been Boston’s starting backstop in each of the last four seasons.

Outfielder Darren Bragg spent last season with the Atlanta Braves, while outfielder Jay Payton played with the New York Mets and the Colorado Rockies. Southpaw Doug Creek was traded from Tampa Bay to Seatte last season, and Kris Wilson joined the Kansas City Royals’ starting rotation midway through the 2001 season. Pitchers David Elder (Cleveland Indians), Cory Vance (Colorado Rockies) and outfielder Marlon Byrd (Philadelphia Phillies) all made their major league debuts last year.

4TH LONGEST NCAA STREAK ENDS, NEW ONE BEGINS

Georgia Tech’s streak of 14 straight years in the NCAA Tournament, which ended in the spring of 1999, was the fourth-longest for a Division I team at the time. Miami owned the longest streak, having been invited for 27 consecutive years, followed by Florida State at 22 and Oklahoma State at 19.

But after missing out on the NCAA Tournament in 1999 for the first time in 15 years, the Yellow Jackets bounced back in 2000 with a 50-win season and an ACC Championship to return to the NCAA Regionals and Super Regionals in 2000. Tech returned to the NCAA Tournament in 2001 and then advanced to the College World Series in 2002. Tech has earned a berth in the NCAA Regionals 17 times in the last 18 years.

Prior to the recent streak, Tech had participated in the NCAA playoffs twice, in 1959 and 1971, with an additional play-in tournament appearance in 1948. Georgia Tech made its first trip to the College World Series in 1994, advancing to the championship game before losing to Oklahoma, 13-5. In 19 NCAA playoffs, the Yellow Jackets have posted an overall 43-38 record.

RECORD SETTING OFFENSE

Georgia Tech has been known as one of the top offensive teams in the nation over the last decade, and in 2001, the Yellow Jackets established an Atlantic Coast Conference and school record with a .347 team batting average.

Tech has averaged better than seven runs per game in each of the last 22 seasons. In the Danny Hall era (1994-present), the Yellow Jackets have averaged 8.8 runs per game.

Tech has consistently ranked among the ACC’s offensive leaders, leading the conference in scoring nine times in the last 18 years while boasting the best team batting average in the league in five of the last 11 years.

TECH ON THE TUBE

Georgia Tech’s baseball team is scheduled to appear on television a minimum of 12 times this spring, including four games on Fox Sports Net South, two games on the Atlantic Coast Conference regional TV game of the week and six games on Comcast Sports Southeast. For the 12th straight year, Georgia Tech will have a package broadcast exclusively on Fox Sports Net South. This package includes Apr. 18 vs. Wake Forest, Apr. 25 at Clemson, May 2 vs. Florida State, and May 13 vs. Georgia. The ACC’s Game of the Week features Apr. 2 at North Carolina and May 3 vs. Florida State. The games carried by CSS include Mar. 11 at Auburn, Mar. 18 vs. Auburn, Mar. 25 vs Mercer, Apr. 8 vs. Georgia State, Apr. 15 vs. Georgia Southern and May 6 at Georgia State.

In addition to the already scheduled games, the Yellow Jackets will have a number of other opportunities to appear on TV. The ACC Regional Network will carry the championship games of the ACC Baseball Tournament in Salem, Va., while ESPN and ESPN2 and will televise all games of the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., in addition to each of the eight NCAA Super Regionals.

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