The On-Tech Circle: Georgia Tech (25-17, 9-12) vs. Clemson (24-18, 12-9)

April 26, 2012

Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –

Friday: Buck Farmer, RHP (6-3, 3.26) vs. Kevin Brady, RHP (1-2, 2.58), 7:00 p.m.
Saturday: Dusty Isaacs, RHP (5-2, 6.75) vs. Dominic Leone, RHP (6-3, 4.92), 4:00 p.m.
Sunday: Cole Pitts, RHP (4-3, 4.38) vs. Kevin Pohle, RHP (4-2, 3.00), 1:00 p.m.

Georgia Tech looks to stay hot as it heads into the final month of the season when it hosts Clemson this weekend.

The Yellow Jackets are flying high coming off a dramatic, 4-3, midweek victory over Georgia in the 10th annual Kauffman Tire Spring Classic for Kids played at Turner Field. The win was Tech’s fourth in five games. Mott Hyde went 3-for-4, driving in two runs and scoring three more, including the winning run in the ninth on a Kyle Wren double. The game-winning hit was Wren’s second of the game. Hyde and Wren combined for five of Georgia Tech’s seven hits on the night. Alex Cruz (5-1) got the win, allowing one run and three hits over the final three innings. Starter Josh Heddinger threw 3 2/3 solid innings, allowing one run on two hits, and Zane Evans also was strong, whiffing four in 2 1/3 innings, allowing one run and three hits.

The Tigers also have won four out of five, but saw their four-game winning streak snapped their last time out, suffering a rare midweek loss on Tuesday night, dropping a 10-7 decision to Coastal Carolina. DH Phil Pohl, a Lowe’s Senior Class Award Finalist, went 3-for-5, earning a third of the team’s hits, scored a run and drove in another, and second baseman Steve Wilkerson added two hits, with an RBI. Clemson took advantage of four Coastal errors in a five-run sixth inning to take a 7-5 lead but the Chanticleers answered with a run in the seventh and four in the eighth then held off the Tigers. 

Georgia Tech and Clemson meet for the 107th time in a series that dates back to 1902. The Yellow Jackets trail the series, 100-103-3 but are 70-39-2 all-time at home and are 10-2 in the last 12 games at Russ Chandler Stadium, including a sweep of the 2010 series.

Tonight and Saturdays games can be seen on CSS, with Matt Stewart and Randy Carroll calling the action. Sunday’s finale will be webcast on ESPN3. Fans can listen in live on WREK 91.1 FM in Atlanta, with Nolan Alexander and Wade Rogers on the call. Tech fans can get live stats on Gametracker on RamblinWreck.com.

Last Time We Met: In a battle of top-20 teams, No. 18 Clemson took two of three from No. 6 Georgia Tech last April 29-31 at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. The Tigers won the opener, 4-2, despite Zane Evans’ two-run homer. Evans’ fifth-inning blast, scoring Sam Dove, who walked ahead of him, tied the game 2-2, but was one of only two hits the Tech managed off winning pitcher Dominic Leone. Mark Pope took the loss, allowing three runs and 10 hits in six innings. Clemson outfielder Mark Lamb went 2-for-3 and scored three times, including the game-winner in the sixth. Georgia Tech turned the tide and evened the series on Saturday, winning 5-1, behind Jed Bradley. Bradley allowed one unearned run and scattered seven hits in throwing his first career complete game. Dove and Brandon Thomas supplied the offense, as Dove went 5-for-5, with two RBIs and a stolen base and Thomas went 2-for-3, scoring twice. Dove’s two-out, two-run single followed a Jake Davies RBI single to cap a three-run first-inning. Matt Skole added a two-out RBI single in the fourth, scoring Thomas, extending the lead to 4-0. Bradley did the rest, retiring 11 straight at one point. The Jackets defense did its part, turning double plays in the seventh and eighth innings. Tech dropped the finale, 3-1, in an outstanding pitching duel. Buck Farmer went the distance, allowing three runs and four hits over eight, but Clemson’s Justin Sarratt was just a little better, going 8 1/3, allowing one run and three hits. Scott Weismann recorded the save, getting the final two outs. Farmer had his seven-game winning streak snapped, but was outstanding, retiring the side in order in six of his eight innings and putting out the final 12 batters he faced. Tech got its only run in the fourth on a Skole single, an error by Clemson first baseman Richie Shaffer and and RBI single by Jacob Esch. Esch’s hit tied the game, but Clemson got a two-out, two run double in its half of the fourth to take the lead for good. The teams met again in the ACC Tournament, with Leone again getting the best of the Jackets. He threw five shutout innings in Clemson’s 9-0 victory. A five-run ninth blew open a close game. Tech had chances but went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in getting shutout for the first time since June 1, 2008.

April Showers: Shortstop Mott Hyde has been raining base hits throughout the month of April. Heading into the month’s final series, Hyde has 16 hits and is batting .340. The hits have come in bunches, as he has hit in eight of 14 games, six of them multi-hit games. The sophomore shortstop’s three-hit game against Georgia on Tuesday was his second of the year (his first came on March 23rd at Boston College) and gives him three multi-hit games in his last four. He had three multi-hit games combined in February and March. Since the start of April, Hyde, who has reached via hit in six of the last seven games, has raised his batting average 36 points to .269 and is hitting .467 (7-for-15) in the current four-game stretch. Defensively, Hyde also has picked things up, as he’s made two errors in April. He’d made eight in the month of March.

Wren Wrevved Up: Center fielder Kyle Wren’s 2-for-4 performance Tuesday night, which included a ninth-inning double that drove in Hyde with the winning run, may be a sign that he’s busting out of a two-week funk that saw him endure a tough 1-for-19 stretch and an 0-for-6 day last Saturday in Chapel Hill that dropped his average to .261 (the lowest his average had sat since Feb. 18, four games into the season). Wren has a pair of multi-hit games in the last four games, matching what he’d done the rest of the month. He’d gone eight games between multi-hit games (April 6 through the 20). That’s an eternity for Kyle, whose previous longest stretch of the season had been four games. It wouldn’t be surprising if the sophomore CF turns it on this weekend, as he was a thorn in Clemson’s side as a freshman. He was the only Yellow Jacket to get a hit in all four games last season against the Tigers.

Buck’s Hill: Winning ACC Pitcher of the Week hasn’t gone to Buck Farmer’s head. If anything, the junior right-hander has gotten even tougher. In his three starts since clinching the award following his March 31 complete-game shutout of Duke, Farmer has allowed three earned runs in 21 innings of work (a 1.29 ERA) and he’s done it against No. 2 Florida State and No. 6 North Carolina. In his last outing, he surrendered two earned runs against the Tar Heels, despite striking out only one batter. That marked his lowest strikeout total as a starter since whiffing only one in five innings against Mercer on March 24, 2010! So far in 2012, Farmer has thrown a quality start in nine of his 10 starts and has allowed more than three runs twice. The second of those came at Wake Forest on April 13, when he allowed four runs, all of them unearned.

Power Vs. Power: This weekend’s series features two of the ACC’s premier power hitters in Georgia Tech’s Daniel Palka and Clemson’s Richie Shaffer. They come in with Palka tying for fourth in the ACC with nine dingers and Shaffer right behind him with eight, tied for seventh (he’s also third in the conference in slugging percentage). The two have met before, as over the summer both played in the Cape Cod League — Palka with the Wareham Gatemen and Shaffer with the Chatham Anglers. Palka and Shaffer also appeared in the home run derby as part of the league’s All-Star Game festivities held at Boston’s Fenway Park. They finished 1-2, with Shaffer blasting six homers to win, while Palka, the only lefty in the competition, hit three out. (Here is video of Palka in the Derby: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9Z6qFobBWI).

Leone Tamers?: Georgia Tech is overdue to get some runs against Clemson’s Saturday starter Dominic Leone. The junior right-hander has allowed a mere two runs in three career appearances against the Yellow Jackets covering 13 2/3 innings (a 1.31 ERA). Last season, Leone allowed the two ERs and six hits in two starts, covering 13 innings. He struck out 15, while walking six. Leone even gave Tech fits in his one appearance against as a freshman, when he faced one batter. That hitter, Jacob Esch, hit into a line-drive double play. The six hits the Jackets do have off Leone combine for the cycle, as Wren has a single and a triple, Hyde has a double and Evans has a homer.

On Deck: Georgia Tech has no midweek game this week and will take the field next weekend when it hosts the Charlotte 49ers of the Atlantic 10. Clemson also takes the week off, getting back in action next weekend hosting Southern Conference-leading College of Charleston.

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