March 7, 2013
Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –
Friday: Buck Farmer, RHP (2-0, 0.00) vs. Eddie Campbell, LHP (1-0, 2.40), 5:30 p.m.
Saturday: Dusty Isaacs, RHP (2-1, 3.72) vs. Brad Markey, RHP (2-1, 2.14), 2:00 p.m.
Sunday: Cole Pitts, RHP (3-0, 1.59) vs. Devin Burke, RHP (3-0, 1.40), 1:00 p.m.
No. 18 Georgia Tech starts its their 2013 ACC season with a huge road test, as they’ll take on No. 30 Virginia Tech at English Field. This battle of Coastal Division powerhouses features two teams with a combined winning percentage of .884 (23-3).
The Yellow Jackets have been wielding white-hot bats all season long and continued to do so this week, pounding out 18 hits in their 16-9 midweek series win over Mercer at Russ Chandler Stadium. Six different Jackets had multi-hit games, led by Brandon Thomas, who went 4-for-6, with three runs scored and three RBIs. Kyle Wren and A.J. Murray each scored three runs for Tech, which trailed 3-1 after four before exploding for five run in the sixth and six more in the seventh to pull away. Sam Clay threw 1 1/3 innings of one-run, two-hit ball to get the win.
The Hokies had their mid-week game against William & Mary canceled due to the weather. In their last action they were quite impressive, going 3-1 at the Irish Baseball Classic at the at the USA Baseball complex, in Cary, N.C. Tech chalked up impressive wins over Rhode Island, Ohio and Tennessee, while dropping a 3-0 decision to No. 22 Notre Dame. The Hokies outscored their opponents, 22-11, and didn’t allow more than three runs in any game. They beat URI 7-3, Ohio, 8-3 and Tennessee, 7-3. Three was their unlucky number in their loss, as they fell 3-0 to the Fighting Irish. Among the hitting stars for the Hokies was sophomore catcher Mark Zagunis stayed red-hot, getting a hit in all four games, the only Tech player to do so.
This weekend is only the ninth set in a series that dates back to 1980. The Jackets have a 20-11 edge and are 6-3 in Blacksburg. Tech has won three of the last four meetings and four of the last five series.
Jackets fans can see Friday and Sunday games via webcast on HokieSports.com and can catch all three broadcasts on WREK 91.1 FM in Atlanta, with Nolan Alexander and Wiley Ballard calling the action. Live stats are available on Gametracker on RamblinWreck.com.
Let’s play ball!
Last Time We Met: Runs aplenty was the theme in last year’s three-game series between Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech at Russ Chandler Stadium. Tech took the series in which with the winning team scored at least nine runs. The Jackets won a historic series opener, 12-3, behind Buck Farmer, who pitched seven strong innings. Jake Davies went 4-for-5, with five RBIs to spark Tech, which had 13 hits. A four-run second broke a 1-1 tie and was more than enough for Tech’s ace. The win gave Head Coach Danny Hall his 1,000th career win. The Hokies won Saturday’s game, but just barely, holding off the Jackets, 12-9. Hokies leadoff man Jake Atwell went 4-for-5, including a pair of home runs, with four runs scored and three more driven in, as the Hokies jumped out to an 8-1 lead after six. The Yellow Jackets rallied for four in the seventh and four more in the eighth but came up short. Kyle Wren, Tech’s leadoff man, did quite well as well, going 2-for-4, with three runs scored and a pair of RBIs. In the finale, The Jackets rolled, 9-1, behind the five innings from Luke Bard and four innings of one-hit ball from the bullpen. Zane Evans went 3-for-4, with two runs scored and an RBI and Daniel Palka went 2-for-3, with three RBIs and two runs scored. Palka’s three-run shot keyed a four-run first inning, while Sam Dove and Paul Kronenfeld each drove in two runs in the four-run seventh that sealed the deal.
Runaway Boys: Georgia Tech’s offense has been nothing short of sensational. In fact, it’s among the best in the nation. The Jackets are hitting a hefty .356, best in the country, lead the ACC in hits (167), runs (131) and runs batted in (118). They runs are coming in bunches, as they have scored in double-figures in seven straight games, one off the school record, set in 2005. There hasn’t been a weak link in the order, as heading into the weekend, the Yellow Jackets have five hitters in the top 10 in the conference — Daniel Palka 22, tied for second, Brandon Thomas and A.J. Murray, 20, tied for fifth, and Matt Gonzalez, 19, tied for seventh. Hitting has been contagious, as seven players have hitting streaks of at least five games, with shortstop Mott Hyde, Sam Dove and second baseman Matt Gonzalez each having hit in eight straight..
A.+: A.J. Murray is putting a new meaning to the term “Sophomore Jinx.” The sophomore first baseman is hitting a team-high .455 (5th in the ACC), with a .571 on-base percentage, also a team high and fifth in the ACC, and boasts a .705 slugging percentage, second on the team and sixth in the conference. He’s also sixth in total bases with 31 (2.38 per game). Murray’s been very consistent, as he’s one of three Jackets to reach base in every game (with Palka and Thomas), and he has shown a flair for the dramatic, as his sixth-inning three-run triple drove in the game-winning runs against Mercer and his first career home run was a grand slam, against Rutgers last weekend. Not bad for a guy who managed one hit in 12 at-bats last season.
A Good Omen: Georgia Tech is off to its customary good start, but this year’s is the best in a while. Tech is 12-1, its best start since 2010. That season, the Jackets started 14-1 and got to host a Regional. This season is the eighth time in the Danny Hall Era that the Yellow Jackets are off to at least a 12-1 start. The previous seven have gone at least to a Regionals and two of them made it all the way to Omaha and the College World Series.
Catch Me If You Can: This weekend showcases two of the top hitting catchers in the ACC, as Georgia Tech’s Zane Evans and Virginia Tech’s Mark Zagunis square off. Evans is the defending ACC Player of the Week, after hitting .579 (9-for-16) with four homers and nine RBIs. He had three multi-hit games last week, including a pair of three-hit games and leads the ACC with five home runs. Zagunis is leading Va. Tech in hitting with a .415 average (22-for-53), and leads the team in hits, runs scored (14), doubles (6), total bases (31), and even stolen bases, having swiped six in seven attempts. He has reached base in every game and is the only Hokie to record a hit in all 13 games this season, with five multi-hit games, including two three-hit games and a four-hit game.
On Deck: Georgia Tech will spend the week preparing to entertain Boston College in ACC home-opening series. Virginia Tech will hit the road for a busy week in which it will visit Charlotte on Tuesday, Elon on Wednesday then open its ACC road slate with a weekend series at Duke.