#STINGDAILY: The On-Tech Circle: No. 11 Georgia Tech (17-3, 5-1, ACC) at No. 5 Florida State (20-1, 5-1 ACC)

March 21, 2013

Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –

Friday: Buck Farmer, RHP (4-0, 1.64) vs. Brandon Leibrandt, LHP (4-0, 3.64), 6:00 p.m.
Friday: Dusty Isaacs, RHP (3-1, 4.03) vs. Scott Sitz, RHP (4-0, 0.60), (30 minutes following first game)
Saturday: Cole Pitts, RHP (4-1, 2.17) vs. Peter Miller, RHP (3-0, 1.88), 1:00 p.m.

In a matchup perfectly suited for Omaha in June, No. 11 Georgia Tech battles No. 5 Florida State at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee. This interdivision battle of ACC heavyweights, features two teams with a combined winning percentage of .902 (37-4), .833 in ACC play (10-2). Due to expected bad weather in the area on Saturday, the teams will play a twin-bill on Friday.

The Yellow Jackets are coming off a rare non-double-digit-scoring game and an even rarer mid-week loss, a 5-4 defeat at the hands of Georgia Southern Wednesday night at Russ Chandler Stadium. It was the Jackets first midweek loss of the season. Tech, which has won 12 of 14, got multi-hit games from Brandon Thomas (3-for-5), Sam Dove (2-for-4) and Dylan Dore (2-for-3), and a Zane Evans homer, but saw their attempt to rally from a 5-2 seventh-inning deficit come up short, as they left the tying run on first in the ninth. Freshman Jared Jillson suffered the loss, throwing the first two innings, allowing two runs (both earned) on five hits, with three walks and two strikeouts. Alex Cruz stabilized things, throwing five innings, allowing three earned runs on two hits, striking out seven while walking three. Jonathan Roberts finished up, throwing two perfect innings.

The Seminoles made it four straight with a sweep of Stetson in a midweek series at Howser Stadium, winning 5-3 on Tuesday then 14-1 on Wednesday. The ‘noles used a four-run bottom of the eighth to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the opener. FSU led 1-0 through six, then, after allowing Stetson to put up a three-spot in the seventh. put together a go-ahead rally in the eighth. They got some help, as the Hatters went mad in the field, dropping a pair of flyballs, two of their four errors on the game, the second one allowing the go-ahead runs to score. Freshman righty Jamels Winston was the beneficiary, earning his first collegiate win. On Wednesday, the Seminoles again came from behind, overcoming a 1-0 deficit through four by scoring four in the fifth then nine in the sixth. Josh Delph went 2-for-4 with a career-best four RBIs, while Marcus Davis went 1-for-4, with two runs scored and three RBIs, and John Nogowski went 1-for-3 with three RBIs. Davis’ homer highlighted the fourth inning uprising, while Nogowski’s bases-loaded triple keyed the sixth inning rally. Billy Strode, making only his second career start, threw six innings allowing one unearned run and three hits, striking out nine while walking three.

This weekend renews a rivalry that dates back to 1959 but hasn’t been seen at Howser Stadium since 2008. The Jackets trail 67-41 overall and are 15-34 in Tallahassee. Under Danny Hall, the gap narrows, as Tech is 31-34 against the Seminoles, 10-12 in Tallahassee, including consecutive series sweeps there in 2004 and 2006. FSU has had the better of the series of late, winning 10 of the last 12 regular-season meetings and 11 of the last 15 overall. In Tallahassee, each of the last four series have ended in sweeps, with Tech sweeping in ’04 and ’06, while FSU did so in ’02 and ’08.

Jackets fans can see all three games via webcast on ESPN3 with Tom Block and Chip Baker on the call and can catch all three broadcasts on WREK 91.1 FM in Atlanta, with Nolan Alexander and Will Long calling the action. Live stats are available on Gametracker on RamblinWreck.com.

Let’s play ball!

Last Time We Met: Florida State swept the regular-season series but Georgia Tech laughed last, knocking off the nation’s top-ranked team, 5-4, on May 23, at NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro, N.C., in the opener of the ACC Tournament. Jake Davies blasted a pair of home runs and Buck Farmer threw six solid innings as the Jackets became only the third eighth-seed to beat a one in ACC Tournament play and the first to do so in 11 years. Davies’ opposite-field, two-run blast in the top off the first off Scott Sitz, gave the Jackets a lead they would not relinquish. He added another two-run blast in the fifth to extend the lead to 5-0. Farmer got the win, allowing three runs, all earned, on three hits, striking out six and walking five. Alex Cruz relieved and closed the game, giving up just one run on a ninth-inning homer to ACC Player of the Year James Ramsey, and four hits. Mott Hyde added an RBI double in the fourth and Thomas Smith had a pair of hits.

The Quality of No Mercy: Georgia Tech’s weekend starters have made a habit of sticking around games so far in 2013. The trio of Buck Farmer, Dusty Isaacs and Cole Pitts have combined for nine quality starts in 15 appearances, with Farmer providing four of them, Pitts three and Isaacs two. Farmer had been 4-for-4 before last Sunday, when he allowed five runs (all earned) against Boston College. Isaacs and Pitts did have quality starts, however, as Isaacs went seven innings, allowing two runs, in earning his second QS in three starts, while Pitts went 6 2/3 allowing one run on Sunday. He’s pitched at into the sixth in four of his five 2013 starts. 

Something’s Gotta Give: There’s a common belief in baseball that good pitching stops good hitting. How it does against great hitting will be seen test this weekend, as Georgia Tech puts its offense, one of the most prolific in the nation, against Florida State’s pitching, one of the ACC’s best. The Jackets come into the weekend batting .352 as a team, scoring 9.7 runs per game. Tech’s batting average is 37 points higher than the nearest team (North Carolina) and 71 points higher than Florida State. Their 194 runs are three more than the second-place Heels and 47 more than the Seminoles. The Jackets’ runs per game is nearly two runs per game more than the ‘noles (7.9). FSU counters with a pitching staff that is second-best in the ACC with a microscopic 1.77 ERA. They’re one of only two teams in the ACC with an ERA under 2.00. Tech’s staff pitches to a 3.42 ERA, sixth in the conference.

Putting the 0(-fer) in Opponents Batting Average: Neither team’s pitching staff is much fun to hit against. While opponents are hitting a paltry .207 against FSU pitchers, second in the conference, they don’t find much comfort against the Jackets, who are limiting opposing hitters to .227, fourth in the ACC. Of the weekend’s starters, Tech has two of the ACC’s top ten in OBA in Pitts, who ranks sixth, holding hitters to a .194 average, and Farmer, who’s ninth, limiting opponents to .207. FSU’s Luke Weaver comes into the series with the lowest opponents’ batting average among the two teams, holding opposing hitters to .158 in six games (third), allowing 15 hits and three earned runs in 27 innings (a 1.00 ERA), while striking out 10.0 hitters per game.

Branded: Center fielder Brandon Thomas is enjoying his senior year so far at the expense of opposing pitchers. Thomas enters the weekend leading the ACC and ranking second in the nation in hitting, with a .487 average, 60 points higher than the nearest player (Wake Forest’s Evan Stephens is batting .427), and hits (38), is second in runs (29) and on-base percentage (.559), is in a four-way tie for third in doubles (8, FSU’s Stephen McGee also has eight two-baggers), is tied for second in total bases (51), and is even fourth in slugging (.654). Thomas brings a 12-game hitting streak into Tallahassee and has eight straight multi-hit games. In ACC play, Thomas has been even better, batting .577, with a .633 on-base percentage, 11 runs scored and four doubles, all league highs..For his career, Thomas is a .400 hitter against Florida State (6-for-15), with four runs scored and two more driven in. Only Thomas Smith has a higher career-average against FSU among current Jackets, at .462 (6-for-13). He’s also been big in the clutch, as his three game-winning RBIs lead the team.

A Need To Go Bases: Thomas isn’t the only Jacket with an impressive collection of total bases thus far. The Jackets have three of the top seven players in the ACC in the category. Junior Zane Evans leads the conference, with 64, 13 more than the nearest players, Thomas and UNC’s Skye Bolt. Evans’ 3.20 total bases per game are .65 per game more than the nearest competition. Evans, the ACC Player of the Week two of the past three weeks, hit .467 last weekend in the series sweep over Boston College, and is riding a 13-game hitting streak, the second-longest current streak on the team. Daniel Palka, the ACC’s third-best hitter (.419) also is in the running with 50 bases, 2.50 per game. Palka, the ACC’s third-best hitter (.419), enters the weekend tied for fourth with six players, including Evans and freshman Matt Gonzalez for fifth in runs scored (25), and is second in RBIs (28, only Evans has more).

On Deck: Georgia Tech comes home to host a midweek game on Tuesday against The Citadel then a weekend series with Wake Forest. Florida State hits the road, playing a Tuesday night game against Florida in Jacksonville, before spending the weekend in Blacksburg, Va., taking on Virginia Tech.

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