The On-Tech Circle: Georgia Tech (21-13, 8-7) vs. No. 1/2 Florida State (26-6, 13-2)

April 10, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

Pitching Matchups
Friday: Josh Heddinger, RHP (1-1, 4.98), RHP vs. Luke Weaver, RHP (5-2, 2.83), 7:30 p.m. (ET)
Saturday Devin Stanton, LHP (2-1, 3.06) vs. Mike Compton, RHP (3-0, 3.15), 2:00 p.m. (ET)
Sunday: Matt Grimes, RHP (4-1, 3.21) vs. TBA, 1:00 p.m. (ET)

Georgia Tech looks to ride the momentum of a six-game winning streak as it hosts the No. 1- (or 2, depending on the poll) ranked and ACC Atlantic Division-leading Florida State Seminoles this weekend. First pitch tonight is at 7:30 p.m, Saturday’s game starts at 2:00 and Sunday’s series finale begins at 1:00.

The Yellow Jackets’ bats roared through a pair of midweek games, beating Georgia Southern, 13-2, on Tuesday then following up with a 12-1 bat-down of Savannah State on Wednesday. The wins gave Georgia Tech a three-game winning streak in midweek games and raised the Jackets’ midweek record to 6-4, following an 0-3 start.

Matt Gonzalez and Thomas Smith each had four hits and combined for seven RBIs and three runs scored on Tuesday as Tech pounded out 16 hits in evening its season series with Southern. A four-run second that saw an RBI single by Daniel Spingola, a two-run triple by Gonzalez and an RBI single by Smith, snapped a 1-1 tie and put the Jackets ahead for good. A seven-run fifth, featuring a Smith two-run double and an A.J. Murray two-run blast to dead center, put the game on ice. Connor Justus also went deep for Tech. That was more than enough support for freshman Ben Parr, who allowed one run on seven hits over six innings while fanning a career-high nine.

The bats remained hot Wednesday, getting 18 hits, six of them for extra bases, in blowing out Savannah State. Justus and Murray both went 3-for-5 with two runs scored to pace an offense that saw six different players get at least two hits. Murray doubled and scored on a Ryan Peurifoy single to break a scoreless tie in the second. Spingola added a two-run triple in the frame. Justus started a three-run fourth, homering for the second time in two nights, a solo shot to make it 4-1. He’d drive in three more runs with a bases-clearing double in the five-run sixth. Zac Ryan got the win, allowing one run and four hits over five innings, striking out seven. A quartet of relievers each threw a scoreless frame to close it out, allowing two base runners over the final four innings.

The Seminoles dropped an 8-0 decision to No. 25 Florida Tuesday night at Dick Howser Stadium. The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak, was the `Noles’ fourth straight loss to the Gators, their third straight at Howser Stadium and gave UF a sweep of the season series. Left fielder Casey Smit had two of FSU’s four hits on the night. Billy Strode took the loss, despite allowing only one run on two hits, while striking out four over four-plus innings in his first career start. Jameis Winston, the seventh Seminoles pitcher, finished up, throwing 1 1/3 perfect innings, with a strikeout. Florida State was outscored 15-2 in three games this season against the Gators

The Georgia Tech-Florida State series dates back to 1959, with the schools meeting annually as conference rivals since 1992. The Yellow Jackets trail 69-43 all-time in the series (17-26 at Russ Chandler Stadium) and are 4-6 in 10 home series, including a sweep at the hands of the `Noles in 2012. They have lost four of the last five regular-season series. The exception was 2009, the Jackets’ last home series win.

All three games of the series will be televised, as tonight’s and Sunday’s games will be on CSS (it also can be seen online on ESPN3), with Saturday’s game being broadcast on Fox Sports South. Jackets fans can catch every pitch on WREK 91.1 FM with Nolan Alexander and Wiley Ballard on the call. The games will also be streamed on RamblinWreck.com. Live stats are available on Gametracker, also on RamblinWreck.com.

Let’s play ball!

Last time We Met: Georgia Tech’s lightning-quick, two-out thunder allowed the Yellow Jackets to advance in the 2013 ACC Tournament, beating No. 7 Florida State, 4-3, to earn a measure of revenge after losing the season series to the Seminoles. Trailing 3-2 with two out in the ninth and facing closer Robby Coles, who hadn’t allowed a homer all season, the Jackets turned two around, two pitches apart, to reverse their fortunes. A.J. Murray started the barrage, taking an 0-1 fastball out to left over the Blue Monster at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Two pitches later, Mott Hyde, also down 0-1, also went deep to left to give Tech led 4-3 lead. Daniel Palka would pitch a scoreless ninth to close things out. Hyde, who went 3-for-4, with a run scored and two RBIs, had given the Jackets a 1-0 lead back in the fourth with an RBI single. Tech tacked on another run in the inning courtesy of a Daniel Palka ground out. The Seminoles tied the game off starter Buck Farmer in the sixth then took the lead in the eighth, when outfielder D.J. Stewart scored from third on a pop out to short right. That set the stage for the late lightning. Farmer was superb, throwing seven strong innings, allowing six hits and three runs, while striking out eight. He used the double play to get out of a couple of early jams, including a 5-4-3 started by Sam Dove’s acrobatics in the first, then a 6-4-3 to avoid trouble in the fourth.

But Have WE Met?: There’s not a whole lot of past history for either team to go on as far as this weekend’s starters. Georgia Tech’s trio has made a total of three appearances, all in relief, totaling 2 1/3 innings. Josh Heddinger has made two of those appearances, allowing two hits and three runs (all earned) on April 7, 2012, the final three runs of a nine-run fifth — started by current Tech bullpen bulwark Dusty Isaacs — that got tomorrow’s FSU starter Mike Compton off the hook. The next year, he also came out of the `pen, throwing two scoreless innings allowing only a hit and a walk, while striking out two in completing a combined three-hit shutout with Farmer in a 10-0 win. The Seminoles saw Devin Stanton for a total of four pitches in the 2011 ACC Tournament. He retired the lone batter he faced in the seventh inning. They have never seen Matt Grimes. Georgia Tech hitters have even less to go on. They are 0-1 against Florida State’s entire staff, but junior lefty Brandon Liebrandt has that lone win, and he is not scheduled to pitch in the series. Compton made only one appearance against Tech, but lasted only 2.0 innings on April 7, 2012. He left with a 22.50 ERA, having given up five earned runs and seven hits in 2.0 innings. Leibrandt and senior Peter Miller are the only FSU pitchers to start against Georgia Tech, each making two.

Downright Offensive!: It may not matter who the pitchers are, the way the Yellow Jackets and Seminoles swing the bat. The teams are top three in the ACC in batting average (Tech .288, second, FSU .286, third), slugging (FSU .418, second, Tech .395, third), hits (Tech 342, first, FSU 311, third), doubles (FSU 67, second, Tech 64, third), triples (Tech 12, first, FSU 8, tied for second), total bases (Tech 469, first, FSU 454, third), and hits per game (Tech 10.06, second, FSU 9.72, third), and are top five in runs scored (FSU 246, first, Tech 192, fourth), and RBIs (FSU 231, first, Tech 174, fourth). Leading their charges are Georgia Tech’s left fielder Matt Gonzalez, who is tied for the conference lead in hits (45), and leads in doubles (13), and sacrifice flies (7), while center fielder Daniel Spingola is tied at the top of the ACC in triples (four). Florida State boasts left fielder D.J. Stewart, who leads the ACC in batting (.384), slugging (.687), and total bases (68) and ranks second in on-base percentage (.496) and home runs (6), and first baseman John Nogowski, who is tied for the conference lead in RBIs (35).

Tech-nicalities: Georgia Tech pitching has held opponents to five-or-fewer runs in 14 straight games. That’s the longest such streak in the Danny Hall Era. The previous long was 12 games, from March 4-20, 2011.

On Deck: Georgia Tech looks to even its season series with Georgia, hosting the Bulldogs Tuesday night (first pitch is at 7:30 p.m.), then travels to Maryland this weekend for its final ACC series against the Terrapins. Florida State hosts Jacksonville in a midweek tilt on Tuesday then visits Winston Salem for a weekend showdown with Atlantic Division rival Wake Forest.

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