No. 1 Tech Baseball Visits Mercer on Wednesday

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Feb. 17, 2003

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech, the nation’s top-ranked team according to Baseball America, travels to Mercer for a non-conference, intrastate matchup on Wednesday at 4 p.m. The trip to Macon is part of a six-game road swing to open the 2003 season. Tech opened the season with a doubleheader sweep of Georgia Southern last weekend in Statesboro, and the Yellow Jackets travel to Savannah to for the Diamond Classic this weekend.

Tech and Mercer will conclude their annual two-game series when the Bears visit Atlanta on march 25. Live statistics for all of Georgia Tech’s games in 2003 can be found on www.RamblinWreck.com.

GEORGIA TECH UPDATE (2-0, 0-0 ACC)

Georgia Tech opened the 2003 season last weekend in Statesboro with a doubleheader sweep of Georgia Southern, 8-1 and 8-3. Tech opened the season with two freshman in the in the starting lineup, and a total of four freshman started at least one game in the doubleheader.

The Yellow Jackets are off to a 2-0 start largely due to the success of their pitching staff. The unit posted a 2.00 ERA last weekend at Georgia Southern and held the Eagles to a .150 team batting average. LHP Kyle Bakker (1-0, 1.50) is the ace of the Tech staff, while the bullpen combined for 7.1 shutout innings and allowed just one hit.

Offensively, the Yellow Jackets have been led by C Mike Nickeas (.667-0-4) and 2B Eric Patterson (.364-1-2). Despite batting .243 at Georgia Southern, Tech scored 16 runs in the two games.

Head coach Danny Hall is in his 10th season at Georgia Tech, and he needs just two wins to reach 400 in his Yellow Jacket career.

MERCER UPDATE (5-6, 0-0 A-SUN)

Mercer is currently 5-6 overall after dropping two of three games last weekend at home to Marshall. The Bears opened the season with three wins over Morris Brown, then dropped two of three to Florida A&M and lost two straight at Florida. Mercer is batting .284 as a team and has a collective 8.00 ERA.

The Bears are led offensively by 1B Jarrod Lynch (.324-1-11) and RF Mike Appalucci (.314-1-13), and six Mercer regular starters are batting .300 or better. The leader of the pitching staff is RHP Brian Jones (2-0, 2.50), who has 21K’s against just three walks in 18 innings of work. RHP Adam Bowling (1-1, 13.50) is expected to start on Wednesday.

STARTING PITCHER NOTES

Wednesday: JASON NEIGHBORGALL (RHP) 0-0, 0.00 ERA

Highly touted freshman Jason Neighborgall will make his Georgia Tech debut on Wednesday afternoon at Mercer. A seventh round draft pick out of high school last spring, Neighborgall elected to enroll in Georgia Tech instead.

Neighborgall was a first-team high school all-America pick last year by Baseball America and was named the North Carolina Player of the Year. As a senior he posted a 7-3 record and a 1.35 ERA, recording 93 strikeouts in 52 innings. He tossed three no-hitters in his collegiate career.

The Yellow Jackets are expected to use several pitchers on Wednesday at Mercer.

Georgia Tech’s weekend rotation for the Diamond Classic this weekend in Savannah will include LHP Kyle Bakker (1-0, 1.50) on Friday and RHP Chris Goodman (0-0, 5.79) on Saturday. Sunday’s starting pitcher is TBA.

GEORGIA TECH VS. MERCER

GEORGIA TECH LEADS, 95-50

* Georgia Tech leads Mercer, 95-50, in a series that dates to 1897. Tech played Mercer its fifth game in school history, during its third season of competition.

* The Yellow Jackets have won nine straight games in the series dating back to April of 1998.

* Tech is 14-3 against Mercer under head coach Danny Hall (1994-present).

* Tech has won seven straight games played in Macon, dating back to the 1995 season.

* Georgia Tech holds a 39-27 lead in all games played in Macon.

* Georgia Tech has scored at least 10 runs in seven straight games against Mercer.

HALL APPROACHES 400 WINS AT TECH

Head coach Danny Hall enters Wednesday’s game at Mercer with 398 wins in his 10 years at Georgia Tech, and he needs just two 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 .698 (398-172) is currently the best in school history behind Morris’ mark of .674 (504-244-1).

In 17 years as a head coach at Kent State and Georgia Tech, Hall’s career record currently stands at 606-289 (.678).

VERSUS THE STATE OF GEORGIA

Georgia Tech is 2-0 against teams from the state of Georgia in 2003, and 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 44-8 (.846) record against its in-state foes. The Yellow Jackets are 86-25 (.775) against teams from Georgia in 10 years under head coach Danny Hall.

PATTERSON CLIMBS TECH STOLEN BASE CHARTS

Sophomore second baseman Eric Patterson stole three bases in the season opening games at Georgia Southern last weekend, raising his career total to 44 steals in 69 career games. Patterson’s 44 stolen bases already ranks 11th in Tech history, and he can climb into the school’s all-time top five with just 22 more stolen bases. Ty Griffin (1986-88) holds the school record with 127 stolen bases.

Patterson’s 41 steals as a freshman in 2002 was the second highest single season total in school history.

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.

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.

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).

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