The On-Tech Circle: Georgia Tech (25-17, 11-10) at NC State (22-18, 7-14)

April 24, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

Pitching Matchups
Friday: Josh Heddinger, RHP (2-2, 4.73), TBA, 6:30 p.m. (ET)
Saturday Devin Stanton, LHP (3-2, 2.68) vs. TBA, 1:00 p.m. (ET)
Sunday: Matt Grimes, RHP (4-1, 3.73) vs. TBA, 1:00 p.m. (ET)

With three conference series remaining, Georgia Tech pulls into Raleigh, N.C., for a weekend series against NC State. It’s an important series for both teams as far as establishing position for the upcoming ACC Tournament. First pitch tonight at Doak Field at Dail Smith Stadium is at 6:30 p.m., with Saturday’s and Sunday’s games starting at 1:00.

The Yellow Jackets are looking to regain some traction, as they’ve dropped three of four and four of six since clinching the series against Florida State two weekends back. Tech dropped its only game this week, falling, 4-3 in 10 innings to Mercer Wednesday night at Russ Chandler Stadium in a game, originally scheduled for Tuesday night in Macon, but postponed due to inclement weather. Matt Gonzalez went 2-for-4, with an RBI and two runs scored and the Jackets rallied to tie the game in the ninth on a perfectly executed squeeze bunt by Connor Justus, but the Bears scratched out a run off closer Dusty Isaacs in the 10th to complete the season sweep of the Jackets. Starter Ben Parr pitched six strong innings, allowing three runs (two earned), on six hits, walking three and striking out four. He left trailing, 3-2, but was taken off the hook by Tech’s late game-tying rally. Jonathan Roberts and Sam Clay combined for three scoreless, hitless innings in relief of Parr. A.J. Murray and Brandon Gold each had two hits for the Jackets, who saw their four-game midweek winning streak come to an end, a streak that started following their March 25 loss to Mercer. The Jackets are 4-3 in their seven ACC series after dropping last weekend’s set at Maryland.

The Wolfpack, who are 1-5 in their last six ACC series and have lost their last two at home, split a pair of midweek games. On Tuesday night they fell, 9-0 to Campbell, but bounced back to rout UNCW, 10-2, the following night. The `pack managed only five hits in falling to the Camels, with right fielder Garrett Suggs getting two of them. Starter Chris Williams allowed five runs (four earned) and six hits in two-plus innings to take the loss. A five-run third proved decisive. On Wednesday against Wilmington, State came out and put up the early crooked number, scoring seven times in the first inning. Shortstop Trea Turner went 2-for-4, with an RBI and a pair of runs scored, while Suggs and left fielder Brett Austin each drove in a pair of runs, Second baseman Logan Ratledge and cleanup hitter Andrew Knizner also scored a pair of runs for the Wolfpack, which had 12 hits, four of them doubles. State’s ace Carlos Rodon DH’ed and had a multi-hit night. The Wolfpack got RBI singles from Knizner, Rodon, a two-run double from Suggs and an RBI single. Austin (sac fly) and Fincher (ground out) also drove in runs in the seven-run first. Logan Jernigan was the beneficiary of the offense. He went five innings, allowing only two earned runs and five hits, striking out six while walking two. State’s bullpen was perfect after Jernigan left as Brad Stone pitched three perfect frames and Cory Wilder fired a 1-2-3 ninth.

Georgia Tech and NC State resume a series that dates back to 1921. After meeting 10 times between 1921 and ’27 (Tech went 7-3, 4-2 in Raleigh), the schools didn’t meet again until 1980 but have met every year since. The Yellow Jackets hold a 71-51 edge all-time in the series but are 22-26 at Doak Field. The Jackets have lost five straight games in the series and three straight road series after sweeping three straight series from 2000 through 2004.

All three games of this weekend’s series will be televised on ESPN3. Saturday’s game also will be shown on Fox Sports South with Wes Durham and Dan Bonner on the call. Jackets fans can catch every pitch on WREK 91.1 FM with Nolan Alexander and Wade Rogers calling the action. Live stats are available on Gametracker, also on RamblinWreck.com.

Let’s play ball!

Last time We Met: Last year’s series was a weekend to forget at the Rusty C. The Wolfpack won all three games, outscoring the Jackets, 27-to-13. State came out swinging on Friday night, scoring in eight of nine innings as part of a 13-4 win. Buck Farmer allowed seven runs (all earned) and 10 hits in five innings in absorbing his first home loss in conference play. Matt Gonzalez and A.J. Murray provided Tech’s offense, each hitting two-run homers. Murray’s blast gave the Jackets a 2-1 lead but State answered four in the third, putting Tech behind for good. Gonzalez’s homer pulled the home team to within 5-4, but they wouldn’t get any closer, as State scored in every inning thereafter. State clinched the series on Saturday, beating Tech, 6-2, behind ace, Carlos Rodon. Kyle Wren had two hits and drove in both Jackets runs, while Mott Hyde also had a multi-hit game. A three-run third did in Jackets’ starter Dusty Isaacs, who allowed only the three runs and seven hits over five. Rodon went the distance, allowing two runs on eight hits. He struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter. On Sunday, State completed the sweep, as they dealt Georgia Tech its first loss of the season when leading after eight innings, scoring two runs in the ninth to steal an 8-7 win. Brandon Thomas went 3-for-4, scoring a pair of runs and driving in another, while Daniel Palka went 2-for-5 and Thomas Smith went 2-for-4, with two RBIs and a run scored, including his first homer of the season. Tech answered a five-run State third with four runs in its half, then pecked away at `pack pitching, getting a run in each of the middle innings to take a 7-6 lead. Smith’s homer leading off the fourth gave Tech a 6-5 lead and Palka’s RBI force out in the sixth made it 7-6. After scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth, State reached closer Zane Evans for a pair of runs in the ninth. Tech had been 24-0 when leading after eight.

You Reap What You Sow: This weekend’s series could determine a lot regarding for the upcoming ACC Tournament. Heading into the weekend, Georgia Tech holds the seventh seed. Their 11-10 record in ACC play gives them a slim one-game lead over North Carolina (10-11), although Tech also owns the tiebreaker, having won the series from the Heels back on March 21 and 22nd. The Saturday double-header sweep, including a 6-5, 13-inning win in the opener, may turn out to loom large. While the series is important as far as determining where Tech will land in the Tournament, it could determining IF the Wolfpack even gets in. State currently sits in 11th place, tied with Virginia Tech, and, at 7-14, starts the weekend two games behind both Maryland (9-11) and Pittsburgh (9-12) and tied with Pittsburgh. The tiebreaker isn’t very friendly, as State was swept by Maryland and doesn’t play Pittsburgh. They close the season at Virginia Tech. State is 3-9 in ACC road games.

This Could Be the Last Time…: It probably won’t make Georgia Tech sad that they may not see NC State junior lefty Carlos Rodon after this weekend. In two starts, the lefty has tormented the Yellow Jackets, pitching to a 1.69 ERA (three earned runs in 16 innings). Last season he threw a complete-game eight-hitter at Tech, allowing two runs on eight hits, striking out 10 and not walking a batter. In his two starts he’s allowed 12 hits, while striking out 16. He’s pounded the strike zone, as 150 of his 223 pitches were for strikes. This season has been tough for Rodon, however, as he is 3-6, despite a 2.15 ERA (ninth in the ACC) and holding batters to a .230 average in 71.0 innings, third in the ACC. His 79 K’s are second in the conference. His six losses tie for the league lead and his 11 hit batters are a league-high. Mott Hyde leads current Jackets in hits against him, as he was 2-for-3 off Rodon last season. He’s 2-for-5 all-time. Matt Gonzalez (1-for-3) and A.J. Murray (1-for-4) also have hits off him among current Jackets.

It’s Never Over `Til…: Georgia Tech has shown opponents all season that no lead is safe, having rallied at some point in 14 of their 25 games times, including overcoming five- and six-run deficits on back-to-back days against Miami. But the mother of all comebacks in school history came against NC State on Doak Field. On April 4, 1998, the Yellow Jackets came up in the ninth inning down 13-5 but would rally for 12 runs to steal a 17-13 win. Tech’s first eight men reached against the State bullpen, four of them by extra base hits. State pitchers also helped by walking a pair and hitting a batter. Maybe the biggest hit was a grand slam by catcher Bryan Prince, a long-timae assistant with the Jackets. Stephen Donaghey was the unlikely winner, while Jase Wrigley earned the save, striking out the side in the bottom half of the inning. State must have still been stunned against Wrigley, as all three hitters went down looking.

Tech-nicalities: The two teams also hooked up for the longest game in Georgia Tech history, a 5:07 affair on May 26, 2011 in the second round of the ACC Tournament. The Jackets won the 15-inning thriller, 6-5, with the winning run scoring on Mott Hyde’s steal of home.

On Deck: Georgia Tech gets the week off before hosting their final home ACC series against Virginia Tech. NC State also has no midweek games and continues its 15-game homestand with a non-conference weekend set against Coastal Carolina.

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