On-Deck Circle

May 6, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Probable Pitching Matchups
Saturday:
Mark Pope (9-2, 1.25) vs. Matt Salemi (4-4, 2.19) , 8:05 p.m. ET
Sunday: Jed Bradley (5-2, 2.60) vs. Charlie Weinberg (6-4, 4.33), 3:05 p.m. ET
Monday: Buck Farmer (7-2, 3.41) vs. Joey Begel (3-2, 5.46), 2:05 p.m. ET

No. 10 Georgia Tech plays a late-season, non-conference weekend series against the Illinois-Chicago at Les Miller Field starting Saturday night.

Tech would like to turn around its recent fortunes, which has seen the Yellow Jackets drop three of four. This skein comes after Tech had won eight of 10. The Jackets are coming off a rough series in Clemson, where they lost two of three, scoring only three runs in their two losses.

The Flames of the Horizon League have won six of nine but are coming off a 9-7 home loss to Northern Illinois. Matt Serna went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, to raise his average to a team-high .349, fifth in the Horizon. Third baseman Jason Ganek also had three hits, including a pair of doubles.

This weekend’s series is the third between Georgia Tech and UIC, but is the first not being played in Atlanta. Georgia Tech has won five of the six previous games and could be 6-0 (more on that in a moment).

Last Time We Met: The fifth-ranked Yellow Jackets ran over Illinois-Chicago in three games last season. In the opener, Deck McGuire allowed three runs and seven hits over six innings in Tech’s 8-4 win. Table-setters Jeff Rowland and Derek Dietrich went a combined 7-for-7, with four runs scored and four RBIs. On Saturday, Cole Leonida and Thomas Nichols each drove in three runs in Tech’s 11-5 victory. Matt Skole also had a multi-hit game, going 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs, including his 15th homer of the season. Brandon Cumpton was the beneficiary, getting the win after pitching five innings of two-run, three-hit ball. He struck out four. In the finale, Jed Bradley chalked up 10 strikeouts to earn his eight win of the season and Chase Burnette had three hits, including his 13th homer of the season, as the Jackets completed the sweep, 5-2.

Almost Perfect: Georgia Tech could easily be 6-0 in this series. The lone loss was a bizarre one, occurring on Feb. 17, 2007. It was an 11-4 loss, but the score is quite misleading. After winning the series opener, Tech was three outs away from going 2-0, holding a 4-2 lead heading into the ninth, and still leading by that score with two out and two on. But, aided by a couple of Georgia Tech errors and a wild pitch, UIC rallied for nine runs, all unearned, to steal the W. The collapse took away from a superb effort by Tech, as all nine Yellow Jackets had hits, with Chris Dupart, Luke Murton, and Jeff Ussery each getting two, while Tech starter Ryan Turner allowed one run and seven hits in six innings.

Welcome, Marlon!: The series opener will feature a special guest appearance by former Georgia Tech outfielder Marlon Byrd, who will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Byrd played for head coach Danny Hall in 1996, but had his career temporarily halted by a major right leg injury. The injury, which required three operations to fix, forced Byrd to leave school. He’d later enroll at Georgia Perimeter College and, in 1999, was drafted in the 10th round by the Philadelphia Phillies. Byrd signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Cubs during the 2010 off-season and last year was an All-Star. He played a key role in the N.L.’s victory, scoring scored an insurance run in the decisive seventh-inning, then made a heads-up defensive play, charging a bloop hit, scooping it up and throwing out David Ortiz to stop the A.L.’s ninth-inning rally.

You Complete Me: Georgia Tech is running away with complete games in the ACC. Heading into this weekend, Jackets starters have seven CGs. The next nearest team is Virginia, with two. In fact, the rest of the conference combined totals eight. Mark Pope has five complete games on the year, while Jed Bradley and Buck Farmer each hurled their first collegiate complete games last weekend in Clemson. Bradley is especially hot of late, as in his last two starts, he is 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA (one earned run in 16 innings).

On Deck: Georgia Tech hosts Savannah State on Tuesday then concludes its 2011 ACC home slate with a weekend series against North Carolina. Illinois-Chicago has a busy week, traveling to Northwestern for a Tuesday afternoon game then visiting Cleveland State for a Friday double-header before finally heading home for a Sunday twinbill with Horizon League leader Valparaiso.

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