The On-Deck Circle: No. 20 Georgia Tech (12-5, 1-2) vs. Virginia Tech (14-4, 1-2)

March 15, 2012

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Friday: Buck Farmer, RHP (3-1, 2.88) vs. Manny Martir, RHP (0-0, 1.20), 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: Matt Grimes, RHP (3-1, 1.69) vs. Joe Mantiply, LHP (2-0, 1.35), 4:00 p.m.
Sunday: TBA vs. Marc Zecchino, RHP (2-1, 3.70), 1:00 p.m.

No. 20 Georgia Tech opens its home ACC slate in a Coastal Division match-up against Virginia Tech. The series could be part of an historic weekend as Yellow Jackets Head Coach Danny Hall enters the weekend with 999 career wins.

The Jackets put Hall on the precipice of history on Tuesday afternoon, unloading on Wagner, 15-4. Zane Evans went 3-for-3, scoring three times and driving in two runs, as Tech hitters pounded out 17 hits. Kyle Wren, Jake Davies, Sam Dove, Paul Kronenfeld and Mott Hyde each had two hits. Davies blasted a three-run homer that began a five-run, first inning that saw back-to-back-to-back homers. Dove and Kronenfeld followed Davies in the home run barrage. The Jackets had back-to-back five-run innings in the fourth and fifth to put the game away. The latter followed a 55-minute rain delay. Matt Grimes (3-1), who was scratched from his previous start on Saturday, got the win, retiring the Seahawks in order on 10 pitches in the first inning — his only inning of work. The Jackets used eight pitchers on a day predetermined to be staff day and found playing time for 25 players on the roster.

The Hokies had a tougher time winning their game on Tuesday, but got it done, rallying for three runs in the sixth and three more in the seventh to top Radford, 7-3, at English Field. Eddie Campbell (2-0), Tech’s second pitcher of the game, allowed a run and two hits over 3 1/3 innings to get the win, which snapped the Hokies’ two-game losing streak, their first of the season. Four of the six runs in those two innings came with two out, as first baseman Andrew Hayden’s two-out RBI single drove in what proved to be the winning run, while. Centerfielder Andrew Rash added a three-run homer on an 0-2 pitch with two out in the seventh for insurance. Shortstop Johnny Morales and rightfielder Jake Atwell each had three hits. Morales scored three times, while Atwell added a two-run single in the sixth.

Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech renew hostilities that go back to 1980 but really heated up once Virginia Tech joined the ACC. The Yellow Jackets lead the all-time series, 18-10 and are 12-6 at Russ Chandler Stadium. But since 2005, the Jackets have won only three of the five home series, and lost the last one in 2010. That year Virginia Tech won three of the four meetings with Georgia Tech, with the last one coming at the ACC Tournament.

All three of this weekend’s games can be seen on ESPN3 and will be simulcast on WREK, 91.1 FM with Nolan Alexander and Wade Rogers calling the action. Gametracker is available on Ramblinwreck.com.

Last Time We Met: The Jackets got a measure of revenge for 2010 last season, winning the final series of the season — a Thursday-through-Saturday set — in Blacksburg. In the opener, Tech scored four runs in the seventh and five in the eighth to take out the Hokies, 11-4. Jacob Esch had a career-best four hits to lead a 14-hit attack. Trailing 3-2, Esch’s fifth homer of the season tied the game in the seventh. Sam Dove’s two-run infield hit and an RBI single by Zane Evans gave Tech a 6-3 lead. Evans’ two-run single the next inning broke open the game. Mark Pope allowed three runs (two earned) and seven hits over seven to get the win. The Hokies took the Friday game, 7-5, overcoming an early two-run deficit, then nearly blowing a 7-2 lead. Matt Skole had his eighth homer of the season and shortstop Mott Hyde and Evans had RBI doubles in the ninth, but the Jackets could not equalize, leaving the bases loaded. Tech won the finale, 5-3, and the series, as Esch went 2-for-4 and scored three runs, one on his sixth homer of the year, to help back Buck Farmer. Farmer allowed three runs and eight hits over seven, to record his league-high eighth conference win. Luke Bard finished up, allowing only one hit over two scoreless innings. Tech took the lead for good, snapping a 1-1 tie with a three-run third that saw a tie-breaking, RBI single by Skole then a two-run double by Davies. The win, combined with Virginia’s loss to North Carolina earlier in the day, gave the Jackets a share of the ACC crown.

A Grand Victory: A win in any of the games this weekend would give Head Coach Danny Hall his 1,000th career victory. Hall would become only the 47th Head Coach in Division I Baseball to earn 1,000 wins and he’d be the second to earn his 1,000th career victory this season, as Missouri State Head Coach Keith Guttin got his on March 4. Hall has done the lion’s share of his winning at Georgia Tech, where he’s coached 19 of his 25 years — in that time he’s NEVER had losing season — having won 791 games, with a .690 winning percentage (he has a .643 winning percentage in ACC play). Hall began his head coaching career at Kent State, where he went 208-117 (a .640 winning percentage). He arrived at Georgia Tech in 1994 and immediately made his mark, leading the team to a 50-17 record — his first of four 50-win seasons. He has nine more 40-win seasons. The Yellow Jackets would finish as College World Series runners-up. He has averaged 43.3 wins per season and has led Tech to all three its CWS appearances.

Bang For The Buck: It wouldn’t be surprising if the Yellow Jackets got Hall’s momentous win Friday night with Buck Farmer pitching. Farmer has had a knack for being around big wins. Last May 16, he was on the mound for Hall’s 300th ACC game, shutting out North Carolina for eight innings in a 3-0 win at Russ Chandler Stadium. Two weeks later, Farmer shut down Va. Tech at English Field, this time throwing seven innings, allowing three runs and eight hits in the 5-3 win that clinched a tie for the ACC Coastal Division crown. Farmer, also won a pivotal game in the Atlanta Regional, eliminating Austin Peay, throwing a complete-game five-hitter, to keep Tech alive. The junior right-hander enters tonight’s start with a 12-1 lifetime record in ACC play and is riding a three-game winning streak. He’s allowed six earned runs over 19 innings in those three starts (a 2.84 ERA), and, since getting no runs in his first start has received 10, 16 and 14 runs of support.

Scoreboard Watching: The busiest person at Chandler Stadium this weekend might be the scoreboard operator, as both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech can put up runs and hits. The Jackets are first in the ACC in slugging (.480), second in runs scored (138), and total bases (290), third in hitting (.313), and home runs (15) and fourth in on-base percentage (.402). Virginia Tech is right there, as they are tied for third in slugging (.456), triples (9, one more than Tech), homers (272), and total bases (272). and are fifth in hitting (.295), and hits (176). The Hokies also lead the ACC in stolen bases (31, in 37 tries, Tech is 25 of 31). Among the top hitters are GT’s Sam Dove, batting .413, fourth in the league, and Zane Evans, who is 14th, hitting .361. Hokies Jake Atwell and Johnny Morales top Va. Tech, with a .358 average, tied for 18th. Of the sluggers, watch Jacket Daniel Palka, whose .627 slugging percentage is seventh in the league, while Atwell leads Virginia Tech with a .597 slugging percentage (tied for 13th, with teammate Chad Pinder).

You’ve Got The Look: Of course, both teams also can pitch. Not only can they pitch, but they can make hitters look bad as they stand there looking. Yellow Jackets pitchers have struck out 149 hitters, second in the ACC, with 43 of them looking, which is tied for fifth. It’s tied with Virginia Tech, whose staff has whiffed 142, tied for fourth, with NC State. Hokies hitters have been obliging, as they are second in strikeouts, with 130 (Tech has 112). Yellow Jackets’ pitchers are holding opponents to a .229 average (third-lowest in the ACC), while opposing batters are hitting .240 against Va. Tech. Call the Hokies “effectively wild,” as Sunday starter Marc Zecchino shares the lead in the ACC with five wild pitches, while teammate and Saturday starter Joe Mantiply is tied for third with four. Mantiply is tied with Logan Jernigan of NC State, who no-hit the Jackets for six innings on Sunday.

On Deck: Georgia Tech hits the road heading to Athens on Tuesday for its first meeting of the year with Georgia, then travels to Chestnut Hill over the weekend to take on Boston College. Virginia Tech settles in for a busy week, hosting a two-game set with Cornell starting Tuesday, then a weekend series with Duke.

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