Feb. 8, 2007
ATLANTA – Tenth-ranked Georgia Tech (50-18, 19-11 ACC in 2006) opens its 2007 season this weekend when the Yellow Jackets visit Georgia Southern (1-2) for a two-game series at J.I. Clements Stadium in Statesboro. Tech opens the season Saturday at 1:30 p.m., and the two teams will play Sunday at 12 p.m. in a game that will be televised by CSS. Livestats for both games will be available at www.ramblinwreck.com.
The Eagles will make a return trip to Atlanta to conclude the annual four-game series March 27-28.
The Yellow Jackets return five starters in the field and welcome back 11 of their 14 pitchers from the 2006 roster that advanced to the College World Series for the third time in the program’s history.
Headlining the returnees are a pair of preseason All-Americas in catcher/pitcher Matt Wieters (.355-15-71 / 1-3, 3.41, 7 SV) and center fielder/pitcher Danny Payne (.356-11-44 / 0-0, 3.86, 1 SV). Other returning starters include 1B Luke Murton, SS Michael Fisher and RF Wally Crancer, while the pitching staff is anchored by LHP David Duncan, LHP Ryan Turner, RHP Brad Rulon, LHP Tim Ladd, RHP Jared Hyatt and RHP Chris Hicks.
Duncan, a sophomore from New Richmond, Ohio, will start the season opener Saturday, while Turner, a senior from Dahlonega, Ga., will start game two on Sunday.
Georgia Tech vs. Georgia Southern
Georgia Tech leads Georgia Southern, 75-23, in a series that dates to 1947. The Yellow Jackets and Eagles have played every year since 1984, playing at least four games annually since 1986.
Tech had a 20-game winning streak against Georgia Southern snapped in the final game of the 2003 series when the Eagles claimed an 8-7 decision in Atlanta. After a loss to the Eagles on February 15, 2004, Tech went on to win the next seven games before Southern earned a 19-7 win against the Yellow Jackets at Russ Chandler Stadium last season. Overall, the Jackets have won 30 of the last 33 meetings.
The Jackets have won 20 straight games over Georgia Southern at J.I. Clements Stadium dating back to the 1997 season, and own an all-time record of 33-10 in games played in Statesboro.
Tech is 42-11 (.792) against Georgia Southern under head coach Danny Hall, with the Tech skipper owning a 22-4 record against the Eagles in Statesboro.
Last season, the Yellow Jackets won three of four games in the series, including each of the first two in Statesboro. Tech defeated the Eagles, 13-9 in the season opener and 15-7 in the second game of the series, and finished off the four-game series with a 7-4 win in Atlanta.
The Yellow Jacket offense has been potent against the Eagles of late, scoring in double figures in seven of the last 12 games. Since the 2003 season, Tech has outscored Georgia Southern 131-78, averaging 10.9 runs per game while outscoring the Eagles by more than four runs.
Jackets’ Potent Offense Will Be Key to Early Success
The Yellow Jackets led the ACC with a .319 batting average during the 2004 season and a .333 team average in 2005. In 2006, Georgia Tech finished fourth in the league with a .318 average, as only 15 points separated the Jackets from NC State, who led the ACC with a .333 average.
Despite losing players that made up over 50 percent of Tech’s hits, runs, home runs and RBI’s from a year ago, Tech will rely on the strength of their offense early on in 2007, returning four starters that hit .320 or above in 2006 while adding three talented freshmen to the mix. With the return of Danny Payne and the addition of rookie second baseman Jeff Ussery, the Jackets have dual threats on the basepaths, while Payne, Matt Wieters and Luke Murton return as powerful threats at the plate.
Overall, Tech has hit over .300 as a team in 22 of the last 24 years, and has averaged at least seven runs per game every year since 1981. Tech has led the ACC in batting in six years (1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005) under Danny Hall.
Not to Discount the Bullpen…
Georgia Tech’s pitching staff was bolstered by stong efforts from the bullpen in 2006, and that group remains essentially in tact for 2007. Relievers pitched 258 innings in 68 games, posting a 3.56 ERA and a 21-7 record with 18 saves last season.
In the five NCAA Regional & Super Regional games, Tech’s bullpen posted a 0.00 ERA in 8.1 innings while recording two saves.
Tech Versus the State of Georgia
Georgia Tech went 9-3 against teams from the state of Georgia in 2006, posting a 3-0 record vs. Kennesaw State, a 2-0 record vs. Georgia State, a 3-1 mark vs. Georgia Southern and a 1-2 record against Georgia. Since 1999, the Yellow Jackets own a 72-20 (.783) mark against in-state foes. In 13 years under head coach Danny Hall, Tech is 115-37 (.757) against teams from Georgia.
Tech Picked Seventh in ACC Preseason Poll
Despite boasting two of the best players in the country and one of the top bullpens in the league as well as a top-10 preseason national ranking, the Atlantic Coast Conference’s 12 head coaches selected Georgia Tech to finish seventh in the leagues’s annual preseason poll.
The Yellow Jackets were picked to finish fourth in the Coastal Division, behind 2006 College World Series runner-up North Carolina, who earned four first place votes and a total of 60 points. Miami, with two first-place votes and a total of 58 points and Virginia, with four first-place votes and a total of 54 points.
Clemson, who claimed the 2006 ACC Championship, was tabbed the preseason favorite, accumulating 11 first-place votes and a total of 71 points while Florida State was selected second in the Atlantic Division with one first-place vote and 55 total points. NC State (48 total points) was also picked ahead of Tech.
Georgia Tech received two first place votes and a total of 44 points, finishing ahead of Wake Forest (40), Virginia Tech (22), Boston College (20), Maryland (18) and Duke (14).
Payne & Wieters Named to Preseason All-America Teams, Brooks Wallace Watch List
Junior catcher/pitcher Matt Wieters and junior center fielder/pitcher Danny Payne earned multiple preseason honors in 2007, including being named to the Brooks Wallace Watch List, which honors the College Baseball Player of the Year by the College Baseball Foundation. The Yellow Jacket duo joined 10 other Atlantic Coast Conference players to earn the preseason honor.
Wieters was also named a first-team preseason All-America selection by Rivals.com, Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball and was tabbed a second-team preseason All-America by the NCBWA. According to John Manuel in the Baseball America College Preview, Wieters will be the 2007 National Player of the Year.
Payne earned second-team preseason All-America honors from the NCBWA, Rivals.com and Collegiate Baseball and was named a third-team preseason All-America by Baseball America.
Dupart Ranks Among Top 50 Incoming Freshmen
Baseball America ranked the top 50 freshmen for the 2007 season, and Georgia Tech outfielder Curtis Dupart cracked the list at No. 16. The rookie from Woodinville, Wash., is vying for the starting role in left field, which was vacated by Steven Blackwood, an Academic All-American and all-conference honoree who will graduate this semester.
Jackets Crack Preseason Top 25 for 14th Time Under Hall
Georgia Tech has been ranked in the preseason Top 25 by at least one of the major polls (Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and USA Today/Baseball Weekly) in each of Danny Hall’s 14 seasons as the Yellow Jackets’ skipper. Tech has been a preseason Top 10 pick in six of the last nine years and a top five selection in four of the last seven seasons.