#STINGDAILY: The On-Tech Circle: No. 15 Georgia Tech (22-7, 8-4, ACC) at Duke (17-13, 6-6 ACC)

April 5, 2013

Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –

Friday: Buck Farmer, RHP (6-0, 1.34) vs. Trent Swart, LHP (3-1, 1.66), 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: Dusty Isaacs, RHP (4-2, 3.83) vs. Drew Van Orden, RHP (2-3 4.58), 1:00 p.m.
Sunday: Cole Pitts, RHP (4-2, 3.19) vs. Robert Huber, RHP (4-2, 3.05), 1:00 p.m.

With their two-game losing streak in the rearview mirror, Georgia Tech heads to Durham, N.C., for a weekend series with Duke at Jack Coombs Field.

The Yellow Jackets split their midweek games, dropping a 10-1 decision Tuesday night in Macon against Mercer before coming back 24 hours later and dropping Kennesaw State, 9-1, at Russ Chandler Stadium. Tech pounded out 12 hits, three of them by A.J. Murray, in the win over KSU. The Jackets snapped a 1-1 tie with two runs in the fourth on a Thomas Smith RBI double and a Kyle Wren RBI single. They broke the game open with a five-run fifth, featuring an RBI triple by Murray, and run-scoring hits by Smith, Wren and Sam Dove to put the game away. Starter Cole Pitts allowed one run and three hits in four innings but got no decision. He was followed by five Jackets pitchers, who combined to throw shutout ball over the final six, allowing only four hits. Jonathan Roberts (2-0) pitched a scoreless fourth and earned the win.

The Blue Devils made it five straight wins with a midweek 9-3 rout of Davidson at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Junior Matt Berezo, sophomore Grant McCabe, and freshman Kenny Koplove each had three hits, with Berezo driving in three runs and McCabe scoring three runs. The Blue Devils spotted the Cougars a run in the first before taking over. Jordan Betts’ RBI double and an error on a Chris Marconcini pop up gave Duke a 2-1 lead after one. They’d add single runs in the second, third, fifth and eighth with a three-run outburst in the seventh. That was enough for starter and winner James Marvel (4-2), who threw five strong innings (two earned runs, six hits, seven strikeouts). Three Duke relievers slammed the door, combining to allow one run and three hits over the final four innings. 

This weekend renews a rivalry that dates back to 1903 — with a 56-year hiatus from 1916 through 1972 — and has been played annually since 1980. The Jackets own an 84-29 record and are 29-13 in Durham. Under Danny Hall, Tech is 50-13 against the Blue Devils, 21-6, at Duke, and have won eight of the nine series in Durham, sweeping four of them.

Jackets fans can see all three games via webcast on GoDuke.com and can catch all three broadcasts on WREK 91.1 FM in Atlanta, with Nolan Alexander and Wade Rogers calling the action. Live stats are available on Gametracker on RamblinWreck.com.

Let’s play ball!

Last Time We Met: Georgia Tech won two of three in last year’s series played March 31st and April 1st at Russ Chandler Stadium. The Jackets won the series on Saturday, taking both ends of the doubleheader, shutting out the Blue Devils in both games, the first back-to-back ACC shutouts in school history. In the opener, Tech won 1-0, as Buck Farmer threw a complete-game shutout, out-pitching Duke ace Marcus Stroman. Farmer allowed three hits and struck out 11. The game’s only run came in the bottom of the eighth, when second baseman Thomas Smith singled for his second hit of the game, stole second, moved to third on a ground out by Kyle Wren, who also had two hits, and scored on a Brandon Thomas double. Pitching was the story in the nightcap as well, as Luke Bard and Alex Cruz combined to shutout Duke, 8-0. Bard started, allowing two hits in 4 1/3, walking three but striking out five. Cruz followed, throwing 4 2/3 hitless innings, while striking out four. The Jackets worked five Duke pitchers for eight runs and 12 hits, with Sam Dove and Thomas Smith each going 3-for-4. Dove scored twice while Smith drove in two. DH Zane Evans and catcher Connor Lynch also had two RBIs, Smith’s second-inning RBI single was all the offense Tech would need, but they’d get fourth-inning RBI hits from Evans and Lynch then add five in the seventh. In the finale, Thomas went 3-for-5 and Smith and Wren each had two hits, as the Jackets out-hit Duke 11-8, but they fell, 4-3. Tech threatened to tie in the ninth, but Smith was gunned down at the plate by Duke leftfielder Anthony D’Alessandro on Jake Davies’ fly ball. Dusty Isaacs got no decision despite throwing threw six strong innings, allowing three runs (two earned) and six hits Josh Heddinger took the loss, allowing only run and two hits over the final three, but the run came in the seventh, snapping a 3-3 tie and proving to be the difference in the game.

Wren-away Train: Junior center fielder Kyle Wren heads into the weekend on a roll. Wren is riding an 18-game hitting streak, during which he’s batting .500 (39-for-78). The streak is the longest in the ACC this season and the fifth-longest in the nation. Wren, who leads the ACC in hitting in conference games, (.520 — his .408 total average is second in the conference, behind injured teammate Brandon Thomas), has hit in all 12 of Tech’s ACC games and has had multi-hit games in each of the last six. He leads the ACC in hits (51), and is second in the conference with 18 steals in 27 attempts.

Where’s the Power?: Georgia Tech enters the weekend leading the ACC with 29 home runs, four more than second-place Virginia Tech and more than double Duke (13). The Yellow Jackets also boast the top two home run hitters in Daniel Palka (10) and Zane Evans (8), who account for 62 percent of the Jackets’ home runs (18 of 29 — of the other six Jackets with home runs, only A.J. Murray has more than two.). Yet with all that power, no one on the Yellow Jackets roster has homered against the Blue Devils.

Tech-nicalities:  Georgia Tech enters the weekend with 50 wins over Duke in the Danny Hall Era. That’s the most against any ACC opponent and is second-most among any team on the Jackets’ 2013 schedule. Only Georgia Southern (62) has been stung more by Hall and Co.

Error-Free Zone: Neither offense should expect much help in scoring runs from its opponent, as Georgia Tech and Duke represent two of the top three fielding teams in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets lead the conference with a .975 fielding percentage, while Duke is third, at .972 (North Carolina is second at .973). Both teams have allowed only 13 unearned runs — 108 of Tech’s 121 are earned, while 114 of Duke’s 127 are earned. Jackets fielders have committed 28 errors (tied for the fewest with UNC), and has played eight clean games this season, while Duke has been charged with 32 miscues (tied with Clemson).

Best of the Best: Among the intriguing match-ups this weekend, one of the most interesting will come on Saturday afternoon when Tech junior starter Dusty Isaacs, last week’s ACC Pitcher of the Week, faces off against Duke junior infielder Jordan Betts, the ACC Player of the Week. Isaacs earned his award by throwing seven shutout innings at Wake Forest, allowing one hit while striking out a career-high eight. He walked two, both in the first inning but got out of trouble when he induced an inning-ending double-play grounder. The only other two base runners came via a third-inning single and a fifth-inning hit-batsman, neither of which advanced past first. Isaacs retired the final eight batters he faced. Betts’ week saw him hit .500 (8-for-16), with three doubles, a homer and 11 RBIs — with at least one RBI in every game. He walked six times and scored five runs, while recording a .609 on-base percentage and a team-high .875 slugging percentage. Betts carries an 11-game hitting streak into the weekend, during which he’s hitting .390, with six doubles, two homers and 17 RBIs. Last year, the advantage went to Isaacs, who kept Betts hitless in four at-bats.

On Deck: Georgia Tech travels to Athens on Tuesday night to play the first of three this season against rival Georgia then returns home for a weekend series against No. 6 Virginia. Duke has a busy week, hosting UNC Greensboro on Tuesday, North Carolina Central on Wednesday then heads to Tallahassee for a weekend series at No. 7 Florida State.

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