The On-Tech Circle: Florida State at Georgia Tech

April 5, 2012

Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –

Friday: Buck Farmer, RHP (5-2, 4.17) vs. Brandon Liebrandt, LHP (3-1, 2.91), 7:00 p.m.
Saturday: Dusty Isaacs, RHP (4-1, 3.37) vs. Mike Compton, RHP (6-0, 1.91), 6:00 p.m.
Sunday: Cole Pitts, RHP (4-1, 3.79) vs. Peter Miller, RHP (4-1, 3.38), 1:00 p.m.

Winners of four of their last five, No. 23 Georgia Tech faces its toughest test of the season thus far when they welcome ACC- and Atlantic Division-leading No. 3 Florida State to Russ Chandler Stadium this weekend.

The Yellow Jackets overpowered Kennesaw State, 7-3 in a midweek tilt on Tuesday night at Stillwell Stadium. Tech hitters pounded out 13 hits and were sparked by the top of the order, as the top three batters, Kyle Wren, Brandon Thomas, and Sam Dove combined to go 6-for-14 with three RBIs and four runs scored. Catcher Connor Lynch and shortstop Mott Hyde also had two-hit games, with Hyde scoring twice and Lynch coming across once. Starter Cole Pitts raised his record to 4-1, throwing four shutout innings, allowing only two hits, striking out five and not walking a batter. Wren’s RBI single broke a scoreless tie in the fourth. Hyde also scored on the play when Wren’s ball eluded KSU left fielder Jacob Bruce for an error. He would score on a wild pitch. Jake Davies added an RBI single in the fourth and Thomas’ two-run double and a Zane Evans sacrifice fly gave Tech a 7-0 lead after six.

The Seminoles were caught with their guard down in their last game, as they dropped a 5-1 decision to Florida Golf Coast Wednesday night at Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium. FSU was held to a season-low three hits by four FGCU pitchers. Starter Scott Sitz (1-2) took the loss, allowing two first-inning runs, but finished strong, retiring the final 16 hitters he faced. First baseman Jayce Boyd’s sixth-inning RBI double brought home the only run for the Noles, who saw their 13-game home winning streak snapped. FSU nearly tied the game in the eighth, but Justin Gonzalez’s bid for a game-tying grand slam was caught at the wall in center field.

Georgia Tech and Florida State renew hostilities in a series that dates back to 1959. FSU leads the series, 64-40 and holds a 23-17 edge at Russ Chandler Stadium. The teams have split the last 12 games in Atlanta.

All three games can be seen on ESPN3, with Nolan Alexander, Wade Rogers and Roddy Jones calling the action on Friday, Mike Morgan and Nick Belmonte on the call Saturday and Matt Stewart and Randy Carroll in the booth for the finale. All three games can be heard on  WREK, 91.1 FM with Alexander and Rogers calling the action. Tech fans can also hear the game as well as get live stats on Gametracker on RamblinWreck.com.

Last Time We Met: The No. 8 Yellow Jackets and No. 7 Seminoles met only once last year, in the ACC Championship Game, with the Seminoles coming away with a 4-2 win at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C. Buck Farmer took the loss, going six innings, allowing four runs (three earned) and seven hits. He walked three while striking out eight. Farmer was undone by a three-run third, which saw three hits, a bases-loaded walk a sacrifice fly and a throwing error by Farmer on a pickoff. Brandon Thomas and Zane Evans each had two hits for the Jackets, who were no-hit for the first 4 1/3 innings by winning pitcher Mike McGee. Evans’ two-run single in the seventh resulted in Tech’s only runs. The Jackets left the bases loaded in the sixth and seventh innings.

Coaches’ Duel: Fans and aspiring managers could use this weekend’s series as a tutorial in baseball strategy, as two of the greatest head coaches in the history of college baseball, Georgia Tech’s Danny Hall and Florida State’s Mike Martin, will match wits. Hall, in his 25th season as a head coach, has been a fixture in the Georgia Tech dugout for the last 19 of those and, on March 16th against Virginia Tech, became only the seventh head coach to reach the 1,000-victory plateau. Martin, is in his 33rd season in Tallahassee. A Florida State institution, he is the third-winningest coach in college baseball history. Both coaches could record milestone victories this weekend, as Hall is two wins shy of 800 at Georgia Tech, while Martin has 1,700 career and Florida State wins in his sights, entering the series at 1,697. Hall could reach his milestone Saturday night, which would cap off quite a night, as he will be honored for his 1,000th career win prior to the game.

Red Hot: Left fielder Brandon Thomas is wielding a scalding bat coming into this weekend. Thomas is riding a five-game hitting streak, currently the longest on the team, and over those five games, is hitting .571 (12-for-21), he’s scored four runs and driven in six. Three of his hits were doubles and when he wasn’t doubling he usually found himself on second anyway, as he stole four bases without being caught. Thomas enters the weekend ranked 10th in the ACC in batting (.365), is 15th in slugging (.539), is ninth in on-base percentage (.456) and is fifth in runs (30, two behind teammate Kyle Wren, who precedes him in the order).

Something’s Gotta Give: We’ll see if good pitching stops good hitting. Georgia Tech and Florida State rank second and third in the ACC in runs scored — Tech’s scored 213 runs, FSU, 204 — but will face superb starting pitching, as four of the six scheduled starters in the series rank in the top 25 in the ACC in ERA. Mike Compton, Florida State’s Saturday starter sports a 1.91 ERA, sixth in the conference, Brandon Liebrandt, FSU’s Friday starter and son of former Atlanta Braves pitcher Charlie Liebrandt, is 10th at 2.91, Dusty Isaacs, who starts for Georgia Tech on Saturday, is 20th at 3.37, and Cole Pitts, Tech’s Sunday starter is 24th at 3.79. The only pitchers who aren’t in the top 25 in ERA are FSU’s Sunday pitcher Peter Miller, whose 3.38 ERA would rank him 21st right behind Isaacs (he’s 2 1/3 innings short of qualifying) and Tech’s Friday night starter Buck Farmer, who is pitching to a 4.17 ERA, but is the defending ACC Pitcher of the Week and is second in the ACC in strikeouts per nine innings (11.51).

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