The On-Tech Circle: Georgia Tech (20-14, 6-9) at Wake Forest (20-14, 5-10)

April 12, 2012

Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –

Friday: Buck Farmer, RHP (5-2, 3.71) vs. Tim Cooney, LHP (3-3, 4.53), 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: Dusty Isaacs, RHP (4-1, 4.35) vs. Justin Van Grouw, RHP (1-4, 5.40), 4:00 p.m.
Sunday: Cole Pitts, RHP (4-2, 4.12) vs. Brian Holmes, LHP (5-1, 2.05), 1:00 p.m.

Georgia Tech will try to get back on track in ACC play in a weekend series against Wake Forest at Gene Hooks Field at Wake Forest Baseball Park.

The Yellow Jackets bounced back from last weekend’s sweep against Florida State by pounding out 12 hits in a 6-4 win over Mercer on Tuesday. Connor Lynch had his second career three-hit game and Mott Hyde and Jake Davies each had two hits and two RBIs. Brandon Thomas also had a two-hit game and drove in a run as the Jackets ended a two-game series losing streak to the Bears. Alex Cruz (2-1) got the win, throwing a career-high 4 2/3 innings. Cruz shut down the Bears, allowing only one hit in relief of Josh Heddinger. Zane Evans finished up, allowing one run and one hit over the final two innings to pick up his second save of the season. Davies’ RBI single in the fourth scored Hyde to break a 3-3 tie and put the Jackets ahead for good.

The Demon Deacons have lost 10 of their last 14 games, but snapped a five-game losing streak their last time out, winning 12-7, at Charlotte. Mac Williamson blasted his 11th homer of the season, a two-run shot in the eighth, to give Wake its first lead. They had trailed the entire game. The Deacons scored in each of the last six innings, plating three in the eighth and three more in the ninth to take the victory. Jack Fischer pitched 1 2/3 scoreless inning to get the win and Michael Dimock blanked the 49ers over the final 1 1/3 to earn his ninth save. Carlos Lopez extended his hitting streak to 10 games, the longest for a Demon Deacon this season.

Georgia Tech and Wake Forest have met 104 times in a series that dates back to 1898 but has huge gaps — 1903 through 1913, 1913-1957 and 1957-71. The series resumed and became annual starting in 1982. Tech has a 67-36-1 lead in the series and has won 20 of the 23 meetings since 2003. In Winston Salem, the series is virtually even, with the Jackets holding a slim 19-18-1 all-time lead.

All three games can be heard live on WREK 91.1 FM in Atlanta with Nolan Alexander, Wade Rogers and Roddy Jones on the call.  Friday’s and Sunday’s games will be broadcast live on the ACC Digital Network, with live video of Saturday’s game  at WakeForestSports.com. Tech fans can get video and live stats on Gametracker on RamblinWreck.com.

Last Time We Met: The Jackets invaded Gene Hooks Field last April 15th, taking the opener, 5-1, behind Mark Pope’s complete-game, one-hitter and a three-hit, two-run night from Kyle Wren. Pope allowed a third-inning homer to James Harris but then retired 16 of the final 18 hitters in throwing the first Tech one-hitter since 1997. Wren gave Tech the lead in the third, scoring on a Jake Davies RBI single, and scored the winning run in the fifth on an RBI double by Jacob Esch. Matt Skole’s sac fly and and Zane Evans’ two-run single completed the scoring. Wake evened the series on Saturday, winning 6-4 despite being out-hit, 11-6. Esch and Sam Dove each had three hits for the Jackets. Jed Bradley struggled with his control and made a throwing error leading to two unearned runs in the third as Wake scored four unanswered runs to open up a 5-2 lead after four. Tech chipped away and threatened in the ninth, but Dimock retired Skole with runners at the corners to end the game. Tim Cooney went 7 1/3 to get the win, striking out eight. Tech needed 12 innings but took the rubber game of the set, 6-5. Davies’ sac fly scored Wren with what proved to be the winning run. Luke Bard got the win, allowing two runs and three hits in five innings of relief, finishing the game with a strikeout of centerfielder Steven Brooks, with the tying run at second. Buck Farmer got no decision but threw seven strong innings, allowing three runs and six hits, striking out eight. Mott Hyde went 3-for-5 with his third homer of the year, a three-run shot in the second, and four RBIs. Evan Martin added his second homer of the year, breaking a 3-3 tie in the seventh.

Sitting on 799: Yellow Jackets Head Coach Danny Hall is one victory away from gaining the 800th win of his storied career at Georgia Tech. Coaching in his 19th season in Atlanta, Hall ranks 16th among active D-I coaches. Coming into this season, he’s averaged 43.3 wins per season, 16.7 in ACC play, has three 50-win seasons and has never had a losing season at Tech and has had only one .500 season in ACC play. Since 2003, Hall’s teams have finished first or second in the league six times and only nine teams in the nation have more wins than Tech since Hall’s hire in 1994. Don’t bet against the Jackets getting No. 800 Friday night, as Buck Farmer will take the ball. Farmer pitched Hall to his 1,000th career victory on March 16th against Virginia Tech.

Steal City: Both Georgia Tech and Wake Forest rank among the best in the ACC in stealing bases, as both teams enter the series tied for second with 49 steals (NC State leads with 58). Among the top thieves are Tech’s 1-2 punch of Brandon Thomas and Kyle Wren, who are tied for fourth in the league, with 11 steals — Thomas in 13 attempts, Wren in 14 — and Wake Forest’s Pat Blair, who has 11 swipes in 13 tries. The Jackets have been caught 16 times (fifth-most), while the Deacons are tied for seventh with 13 CS’s. Tech base runners should beware, as Friday night pitcher Tim Cooney leads the ACC with four runners picked off.

That’s The Fact, Jack: Both Georgia Tech and Wake Forest have gone yard plenty this year, as Wake is second in the ACC, with 30 long balls, one behind leader Virginia Tech, while Tech is sixth, with 22. The two pitching staffs also have surrendered some long ones, as Techs’ 24 are the most in the ACC, with Wake not far behind, having given up 19 gopher balls. Wake centerfielder Mac Williamson has 11 to pace the conference, while first baseman Carlos Lopez has eight, which is fifth, tied with Georgia Tech’s leader Daniel Palka. Tech could use a power boost, as the Jackets have gone eight consecutive games without a homer — the longest such streak since 2002 — and have only one over the last 12 games (Palka’s fifth-inning blast against Georgia Southern on March 28). The drought comes after a binge during which the Jackets hit seven round-trippers in four games (3/13 vs. Wagner and 3/16-18 vs. Virginia Tech).

Cruz Control: Alex Cruz has become quite a weapon out of the bullpen. The sophomore threw 4 2/3 innings against Mercer, matching his career-best set March 31st against Duke. He’s allowed five runs in 15 appearances this season, covering 28 innings, a 1.61 ERA, and has been as stingy in ACC play, where, in five games he’s allowed two runs in 11 innings, a 1.63 ERA. Cruz has been called upon six times in eight of Tech’s bases-loaded situations this season and has stranded 10 of the 18 inherited runners. He’s stranded 12 of 20 IRs this season.

On Deck: Georgia Tech makes a pit stop at home on Tuesday, hosting Georgia State, then heads back out on the road next weekend stopping in Chapel Hill for a Coastal Division showdown with North Carolina. Wake visits UNC-Greensboro on Tuesday night then comes home to face Virginia Tech.

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