Feb. 13, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
– Georgia Tech will trade snowballs for baseballs as it opens its 2014 season against Old Dominion in the Battle In Midtown. First pitch is at 3 p.m. and precedes the VCU-Radford game, which begins at 6 p.m. The Jackets will play Radford on Saturday afternoon and complete the round-robin on Sunday against VCU, both games at 4 p.m.
The 2014 season is the 117th in Georgia Tech history and the 21st under current Head Coach Danny Hall. The Jackets are 15-5 in season openers in the Hall Era and have won five straight. They’re 8-1 under Hall in season openers at home. Tech will look to continue its streak of 27 consecutive seasons playing in an NCAA Regional, the third-longest in the nation, behind only ACC rivals Florida State and Miami, which have 29.
The Jackets will see plenty of quality competition on all three teams. The Monarchs, although picked 10th in Conference USA, feature junior outfielder Josh Eldridge (.297, 50 RBIs, 41 runs, 15 doubles, four triples, six homers in 2013). The Rams are picked for second in the Atlantic-10, led by senior infielder Joey Cujas (.333, 40 RBIs) and 2013 All-A-10 Rookie Team outfielder James Bunn, while Radford is predicted for fifth in the Big South, led by redshirt senior shortstop Jeff Kemp (10 HR, 34 RBIs, .588 slugging percentage).
As is the rite of spring, Jackets fans can hear every pitch on WREK 91.1 FM, with Nolan Alexander and Wade Rogers on the call. Live stats are available on Gametracker on RamblinWreck.com.
Let’s play ball!
Friday: Jonathan King, LHP (6-5, 4.04 in 2013) vs. Ryan Yarbrough (ODU), LHP (4-4, 3.27 in 2013), 3:00 p.m. (ET)
Saturday: Cole Pitts, RHP (5-3, 4.71 in 2013) vs. Dylan Nelson (RU), RHP (6-3 7.26 in 2013), 4:00 p.m. (ET)
Sunday: Josh Heddinger, RHP (3-0, 4.60 in 2013) vs. JoJo Howie (VCU), LHP (9-1, 1.99 with Everett Community College in 2013), 2:00 p.m. (ET)
Last Time We Met: Georgia Tech is 4-3 all-time against Old Dominion — all seven games have been played in Atlanta. While the Yellow Jackets lost the last meeting there’s not a whole lot of grudge bearing, as the game was on March 10, 1986 — seven years before Coach Danny Hall arrived on the Georgia Tech campus. The Jackets have had better, and more recent, success against VCU. They are 4-0 against the Rams and 1-0 at The Rusty C, although the home win also pre-dates Hall’s arrival. The schools have met twice in the Danny Hall Era, at the 2002 and 2006 Baseball At The Beach Tournament, in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Tech won both games by 8-2 scores. Sunday’s meeting against Radford will be the first between the Yellow Jackets and Highlanders on the diamond.
0 as in “Opener”: Sophomore lefty Jonathan King will try and continue what has become something of a Georgia Tech Opening Day tradition, throwing a shutout. Since 2008, the Yellow Jackets have shut out their season-opening opponent four times. The streak began in ’08, with a 14-0 pasting of Youngstown State behind David Duncan (7 innings) Chris House (1) and Charlie Blackmon (1). That was followed by a 9-0 whitewash of Lipscomb in 2009, with Deck McGuire (7), Thomas Nichols (1) and Mark Pope (1) throwing, then a 4-0 shutout of Missouri State in 2010 behind McGuire (7), Andrew Robinson (1) and Kevin Jacob (1). Last season Buck Farmer threw goose eggs over eight, in zipping Akron, 3-0. Farmer, who was on the wrong end of a 5-0 season opener the year before against Kent State, allowed only four hits, while striking out a career-high 14 hitters. King should remember the game pretty well, as he made his collegiate debut, closing out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out a pair.
Going Four It: Senior shortstop Mott Hyde would accomplish a unique feat with a hit in the season opener against Old Dominion. Hyde has at least one hit in each of his three season-opening games. He’s hitting .333 on Opening Day (4-for-12), with a career-best 2-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs as a freshman in 2011 against Kent State. Last season he went one 1-for-4 against Akron. In between, he went 1-for-3 against Kent State. That 2012 opener was impressive, as Tech scratched out only four hits. Hyde, who has batted second, eighth and seventh, is the current active leader on the Jackets with 17 homers, but has yet to hit one on Opening Day or in the month of February.
Tech-nicalities: Georgia Tech has played VCU twice under Coach Danny Hall, in 2002 and 2006. Those are the last two seasons in which the Yellow Jackets have reached the College World Series.
On Deck: Georgia Tech plays a mid-week game against Georgia Southern on Wednesday night in Statesboro then comes home for a weekend series against UNC Greensboro. Old Dominion has a busy week, traveling to Lynchburg, Va., to take on Liberty on Tuesday, then to Richmond to take on VCU at “The Diamond,” on Wednesday, then hosting St. John’s, Kentucky and St. Joseph’s in the ODU Baseball Tournament over the weekend. VCU welcomes ODU then travels to Furman for a weekend series. Radford continues its season-opening eight-game road swing on Tuesday, visiting Greensboro, N.C., to take on North Carolina A&T, then heads to Winston Salem, N.C., for the Wake Forest Invitational and games against Missouri, Cincinnati and Wake.
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