ATLANTA (Feb. 8) – Armed with a top-10 ranking for the second straight pre-season, Georgia Tech’s baseball team opens its 2000 season this weekend with its annual visit to Georgia Southern. The two teams will square off twice, with first pitch scheduled for 1:30 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday in Statesboro, Ga., at J.I. Clements Staadium.
The ninth-ranked Jackets enter the campaign looking to commence another string of NCAA tournament appearances after failing to earn a regional bid in 1999 for the first time in 15 years. The Jackets start the 2000 season ranked in the top ten of all three major polls, ranked No. 8 by Baseball Weekly and No. 9 by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. The Atlantic Coast Conference coaches voted the Jackets to finish second in their annual pre-season poll.
Junior left-hander Cory Vance (Vandalia, Ohio) will get the call on the mound in the opener. Vance, 9-3 with a 4.43 ERA a year ago, defeated the Eagles twice in 1999. Sophomore right-hander Steve Kelly (Fairfield, Ohio), who made just three starts last season and finished 0-1 with a 6.46 ERA, will start on the hill for the Jackets on Sunday.
“I’d like to see each go six or seven innings, although they’ll be limited to about 100 pitches,” said head coach Danny Hall.
At the plate, Hall will have a multitude of options when filling out the lineup card on Saturday afternoon, as this year’s Tech squad features great depth.
The Jackets’ potent offensive attack will be anchored by sophomore third baseman Mark Teixeira (Severna Park, Md.). The 1999 ACC Freshman of the Year, Teixeira hit .387 with 13 home runs and 65 RBI a year ago.
Joining Teixeira in the Tech infield will be sophomores Victor Menocal (Gainesville, Ga.), .195-1-19, at shortstop and Richard Lewis (Marietta, Ga.), .338-1-14, at second base. Sophomore Wes Rynders (Marietta, Ga.), .378-2-12, will get the call in center field, while junior Brad Stockton (Marietta, Ga.), .331-5-26, will start in right field.
Tech’s first base, left field, and catching positions will likely fluctuate early in the season, as the Jackets have three catchers, juniors Jason Basil (Cincinnati, Ohio), .349-8-56, Bryan Prince (Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.), .311-5-38, and freshman Tyler Parker (Marietta, Ga.), who all will see time in the lineup.
“The swing positions are the three catchers,” said Hall. “I’d like to find a way to get all three in the lineup. We also have freshmen Jon Henry Kail (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Jason Perry (Jonesboro, Ga.) who can play left field.”
One major change this season will be the absence of Matthew Boggs’ name from the top of the lineup card. Boggs, who has served as Tech’s leadoff hitter for the majority of the last two seasons, underwent elbow surgery in the fall and will miss the 2000 campaign. Richard Lewis got the call in that spot in Saturday’s alumni game, and will be there again this weekend.
Tech will look to match its start from 1997, in which the Jackets opened with a pair at Georgia Southern en route to winning its first 10 games, and 28 of the first 30.
“It’s critical to get off to a good start,” said Hall. “I hope we play well. They’re an in-state rival and we’ve got a target on our back going down there.”
SERIES VS. GEORGIA SOUTHERN
The Jackets continue their annual series with the Eagles this weekend in what will be the 70th and 71st meetings between the two schools. Tech leads the all-time series by a 49-20 margin, having taken all four games a year ago and 10 of the last 12. Tech hasn’t lost on the Eagles’ home field, J.I. Clements Stadium, since 1996.
A year ago, despite taking all four meetings, Tech’s success against Georgia Southern was anything but easy as three of the four games were determined by two runs or fewer. Cory Vance earned two of his nine wins against the Eagles, allowing just two earned runs in thirteen innings of work.
TECH PICKED TO FINISH SECOND BY ACC COACHES
Georgia Tech has been picked to finish second in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season by the annual pre-season poll of the league’s nine head coaches. The Jackets, who finished fifth in the league with a 12-12 record a year ago after being picked to win the league in the pre-season, edged out Clemson for the second spot this year behind Florida State.
The Seminoles claimed seven of nine first place votes and 79 points, with Tech following with 67 points, Clemson with 66, and defending ACC champion Wake Forest with 53. The Tigers and Demon Deacons each received one first place vote. Rounding out the poll were North Carolina (48 points), NC State and Virginia (31 points), Maryland (16 points) and Duke (14 points).
Baseball America magazine matched the league’s coaches with Florida State and Georgia Tech at the head of the class in the ACC, and projected five league teams, those two along with Clemson, Wake Forest and North Carolina, to make the 2000 NCAA Tournament.
EARLY SEASON COMMENDATIONS
Aside from the top 10 rankings in the pre-season polls of Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball, and Baseball Weekly, many Jacket players have received recognition.
Sophomore third baseman Mark Teixeira was named as the first-team designated hitter on Baseball America’s All-America team, while Teixeira and pitcher Cory Vance were second-team selections to Collegiate Baseball’s All-America team.
Along with Teixeira and Vance, Baseball America named outfielder Brad Stockton and outfielder-catcher Jason Basil to its pre-season all-conference team, with Teixeira being selected as the league’s projected player of the year.
PLENTY OF PRO PROSPECTS
Expect to see plenty of major league scouts at Russ Chandler Stadium this season as Baseball America has named several Tech players as top prospects for the 2000 and 2001 drafts.
Cory Vance was ranked 35th and Jason Basil ranked 95th on the list of prospects for the 2000 major league draft. Vance and Basil ranked fourth and ninth respectively in the ACC in that category.
Mark Teixeira was named the top college prospect for the 2001 draft, while Rhett Parrott (No. 2) and Brad Busbin (No. 4) joined Teixeira among the top five in the ACC eligible for the 2001 draft.
CHALLENGING SCHEDULE AWAITS
Once again in 2000, Tech has plenty of challenges in order to live up to its pre-season top 10 billing. The Jackets have fourteen games scheduled against teams in Baseball America’s top 25, including road games against No. 2 Cal State Fullerton, No. 5 Miami, and No. 7 Florida State.
Georgia Tech will also face its annual in-state rivals, starting this weekend with two games at Georgia Southern. Tech will once again play 12 games against teams from Georgia, having posted a 11-1 record a year ago against Peach State foes (not counting an exhibition loss to the Atlanta Braves). Following the Georgia Southern series, Tech has a home-and-away series next Tuesday and Wednesday with cross-town rival Georgia State. The Jackets will face Georgia for the first of four meetings at the end of February, and will take on Mercer twice later in the season.