April 24, 2013
By Jon Cooper
Tuesday night at Turner Field was not Georgia Tech’s night.
The 19th-ranked Yellow Jackets managed only five hits, and fell, 17-0, to Georgia in the 11th Annual Kauffman Tire Spring Classic For Kids.
The loss, Tech’s biggest in the series since an 18-6 defeat on June 2, 2008, and the worst in the 11-game history of the Kauffman Tires Classic, comes on the heels of their home sweep over the weekend to North Carolina State and left Head Coach Danny Hall with the conclusion that it wasn’t just one of those nights.
“We’ve lost four in a row,” said Hall. “They obviously played very well but it’s very disappointing for us the way we’ve played in our last four games.”
He’d expected much more of a bounce back following the weekend.
“I honestly thought that we would really be ready to play tonight, we’d be looking forward to playing,” Hall said. “I just think it’s more the way we’re playing. We’re just not playing Georgia Tech Baseball and the way we expect to play and we’ve got to get back to that.”
Tuesday night was the third time this season the Yellow Jackets were shut out, all three coming since April 5.
As big a culprit in the slump, and where the Jackets must look to turn things around, is on the mound.
Eight different Yellow Jackets pitchers allowed 17 runs (all earned) and 23 hits to Georgia, both opponent team-highs. It was the second time in the last four games that Tech pitchers were reached for double-figure runs and the third straight game and sixth time in eight games that Tech pitching allowed double-figure hits.
“We’ve had four bad starts in a row,. So that’s where it starts,” he said. “The good thing for us is the next guy to pitch for us is Buck Farmer. He’s obviously one of the best guys that we’ve probably had at Tech in a long time and he’s one of the best pitchers in the country. So we’ve got a guy that’s capable of ending that streak pitching for us on Friday. But it all starts with that. But we haven’t hit well, we haven’t fielded well. We’re not doing any phase of the game well right now.”
Starter Jonathan King (3-3), took the loss Tuesday night, lasting two-plus innings allowing four runs (all earned) on seven hits as his two-start winning streak ended. King struck out one and walked one and threw 53 pitches, 30 for strikes.
The freshman was in trouble all night, even after playing Houdini in the first, as he wriggled out of a first-and-third, one-out jam, then limited the damage to two runs in the second. But in the third, his tightrope snapped and he was pulled for Josh Heddinger after allowing the first two hitters to single.
UGA would score three more times getting three hits off Heddinger in the third to expand the lead to 7-0. Through three, Georgia had seven runs and 10 hits, all of them singles.
“He just couldn’t locate any of his pitches,” said Hall of King. “He was up in the zone a lot. You could say that about most of the guys that followed him. We just threw too many balls right in the middle of the plate and too many balls up in the zone. To their credit they hit them tonight.”
Offensively, Tech managed only five hits against six Georgia pitchers. Kyle Wren, celebrating his 22nd birthday, had two of them, while Mott Hyde, last year’s hero in the Kauffman Tires Classic, Zane Evans and Brandon Thomas had the others.
“Kyle Wren is playing great right now. He’s been very consistent all year swinging the bat and getting on base a lot,” said Hall. “He’s one of the guys I’m happy with. I think he’s doing his job but we’ve got to get more than just him doing their job.”
Georgia came into the game with a 4.64 ERA, the second-highest in the SEC, and had allowed 385 hits, the most in the SEC.
Bryan Benzor (3-2), the losing pitcher in last year’s Kauffman, got the win, throwing the first three innings, allowing two hits and striking out four to earn the win.
Georgia’s pitching wasn’t the only surprise for Tech. The Bulldogs’ No. 8 hitter, center fielder Justin Bryan proved a major thorn in Tech’s side, while shortstop Kyle Farmer was held in check.
Bryan came into the game batting .085 (5-for-59), with five RBIs. He left Turner Field having raised his average 40 points (.125), going 3-for-5, with a team-high four RBIs and a run scored. Third baseman Curt Powell, the team’s leading hitter, went 3-for-4 with two runs scored, and an RBI, and left fielder Hunter Cole had a game-high four hits, going 4-for-5, with three runs score and two driven.
Meanwhile, Farmer, the team’s leading run-producer not only didn’t have an RBI, he went only 1-for-6.
The Jackets will be leaning on their Farmer to help them snap this skid when they head to Clemson this weekend. But Hall knows that Buck is only a starting point.
“If we have someone to stop a losing streak it’s Buck Farmer,” said Hall. “So we will count on him to give us a good start and then we hope that we have some good at-bats and make plays and do the other things that we’ve done for most of the year but we just haven’t done too much of it lately.
“We’re not doing things we need to do,” he added. “We’ve got to start doing that or there will be more games like this because we’re not playing anybody easy the rest of the year on our schedule.”