The On-Tech Circle: Georgia Tech (1-3) vs. UNC Greensboro (1-1)

Feb. 20, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

– Georgia Tech will try to get back in the win column and, ideally, back over .500 when it hosts a weekend set against the UNC Greensboro of the Southern Conference. First pitch tonight is at 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon’s game begins at 2 p.m. and the series finale starts at 1 p.m.

The Yellow Jackets have lost three straight since an Opening Day win, including a 4-3 loss Wednesday night at Georgia Southern. Freshman third baseman Brandon Gold went 3-for-4, with a pair of doubles, a run scored and an RBI for the Jackets, who managed five hits on the night, but still nearly came all the way back from an early 4-1 deficit. Gold’s first-inning RBI double gave the Jackets a 1-0 lead, and his seventh-inning two-bagger ignited Tech’s two-run rally to pull within one. Freshman Zac Ryan took the loss in his collegiate debut, allowing three runs (all earned) on five hits in 2 2/3 innings. The quartet of Ben Parr, Alex Cruz, Devin Stanton and Dusty Isaacs allowed one run and six hits over the final 6 1/3 innings, with Cruz throwing four scoreless innings and matching his career-high seven strikeouts.

The Spartans opened their season by splitting a pair of midweek games. They edged Duke, 9-8, in 12 innings on Tuesday then dropped a 7-4 decision the next night to UNC Asheville. On Tuesday, the Spartans scored three unearned runs in the bottom of the 12th to edge the Blue Devils, 8-6. First baseman Julien Abreu’s third hit of the game, a two-run single, drove in his second and third runs of the game to win it. Second baseman Hunter King also had three hits and two RBIs. On Wednesday, UNCG led 2-0 after two against Asheville, but were done in by a five-run sixth. The Spartans outhit the Bulldogs, 12-6, but UNCG pitchers allowed 14 walks.

This is only the second series ever between the schools. They split a weekend set in Atlanta back in 2000, with the Spartans winning the opener, 10-6, and the Jackets taking the second game, 8-7.

Jackets fans can hear every pitch on WREK 91.1 FM, with Nolan Alexander and Wade Rogers on the call. The game will also be streamed on RamblinWreck.com. Live stats are available on Gametracker, also on RamblinWreck.com.

Let’s play ball!

Pitching Matchups
Friday:
Jonathan King, LHP (0-0, 6.75) vs. Ryan Clark, RHP (0-0, 4.50), 4:00 p.m. (ET)
Saturday: Cole Pitts, RHP (0-0, 1.80) vs. Max Povse, RHP (0-0 9.00), 2:00 p.m. (ET)
Sunday: Josh Heddinger, RHP (0-1, 1.80) vs. Lee Gilliam, RHP (0-0, 0.00), 1:00 p.m. (ET)

Party Like It’s 1998: While a 1-3 start isn’t common for Georgia Tech it isn’t uncharted territory for head coach Danny Hall, either — it’s just been a while since he’s been there. The last time the Yellow Jackets started a season 1-3 was 1998. But Tech broke out of the early-season funk, winning nine of its next 10 games then winning 11 of 13 at the end of March. The Jackets finished the regular season 37-18, second in the ACC, and qualified for their 14th straight NCAA Tournament. In the Midwest Regional they lost their opener but worked their way through the loser’s bracket and reached the championship game. They lost, 3-1, in that game to eventual College World Series runner-up Arizona State. Six freshmen started that championship game, including current assistant coach, Bryan Prince, who finished the year hitting .337, with five homers and 38 RBIs.

The Return of Alexander the Great: Senior Alex Cruz has regained the form he displayed two seasons ago as the team’s rubber-armed innings eater. Cruz has made two appearances in 2014, and has thrown six shutout innings, allowing five hits and holding batters to a .250 batting average. Most impressive is that he’s struck out 10 and has yet to walk a batter. His two multi-inning scoreless appearances are one fewer than he had all last season. Cruz is looking to bounce back from a 2013 season that saw him go 2-2 with a save, while pitching to a 5.93 ERA and a .303 opponents batting average. In 2012, he was 8-3 with a save, a 1.83 ERA and a .179 opponents BA.

Great Gonzo!: Sophomore Matt Gonzalez is off to a blazing start offensively. He’s leading the team in batting average (.385, he’s the only Jacket hitting over .300), on-base percentage (.412, he’s the only Jacket over .400), slugging percentage (.692), hits (5), doubles (4), RBIs (3), sacrifice flies (2), total bases (9) and even stolen bases (2).

Tech-nicalities: Look up sure-handed in the dictionary and you might see second baseman Thomas Smith’s picture. Smith hasn’t committed an error since May 27, 2012, in the championship game of the ACC Tournament. In the 53 games he’s played since, including Wednesday night against Georgia Southern, Smith has handled all 169 chances flawlessly. His errorless streak covers 665 days heading into Friday’s series opener.

On Deck: Georgia Tech continues its homestand hosting Kennesaw State on Tuesday then welcoming Bowling Green for a weekend set. UNCG settles in for an extended homestand, beginning with mid-week games Tuesday against Wake Forest, then Wednesday vs. High Point before hosting Georgetown over the weekend.

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