The On-Tech Circle: Georgia Tech (30-19, 10-14) at No. 22 Virginia (32-14-1, 14-10)

May 10, 2012

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Probable Pitching Matchups
Friday:
Buck Farmer, RHP (7-3, 3.20) vs. Branden Kline, RHP (6-3, 3.52), 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: Jake Davies, LHP (0-1, 3.45) vs. Scott Silverstein, LHP (2-4, 3.81, 1:00 p.m.
Sunday: Cole Pitts, RHP (4-4, 4.60) vs. Artie Lewicki, RHP (3-2, 4.30), 1:00 p.m.

Georgia Tech plays its final ACC road series of the season when it travels to Charlottesville, Va., for a Coastal Division showdown with the Virginia Cavaliers.

With two weekends to go, both teams have plenty to play for, as the Yellow Jackets are in a dogfight to hold onto, and potentially improve, their seeding in the ACC Tournament. They are tied with Virginia Tech for the final spot (they own the tiebreaker), while holding a tenuous one-game lead over Wake Forest. Boston College also is still in the picture. The Cavs are in second place in the Coastal Division and looking to make up ground on leader North Carolina.

The Yellow Jackets are looking to stay on a roll, having won four straight, seven of nine and nine of 12. They’ll try to build off their 8-6 win over rival Georgia on Wednesday night at Russ Chandler Stadium. On what was supposed to be a “Staff Day,” freshman Josh Heddinger threw six stellar innings, allowing one run and four hits. Second baseman Thomas Smith and center fielder Kyle Wren drove in two runs apiece, as the Jackets jumped out to an 8-1 lead after seven, then held off the stubborn Bulldogs, with Alex Cruz battling, but finally closing it out.

The Cavaliers made it eight straight and nine out of 10 on Wednesday night, blowing away High Point, 12-3 at Davenport Field. Freshman Nate Irving went 3-for-3, with three runs scored and two RBIs, while Bruno and Chris Taylor each had two hits and two RBIs. Reliever Shane Halley threw three innings to get the win on “Staff Day,” raising his record to 8-1. UVA scored four in the third then plated two more in the fourth to overcome an early 1-0 deficit.

Georgia Tech and Virginia renew hostilities in a series that dates back to 1924. The Yellow Jackets hold a 65-42-2 all-time series lead. They are 24-23 all-time in Charlottesville and are 7-7 since 2003, when Davenport Field opened, going 2-2-1 in the five series there.

Saturday’s game will be the only one of the series that will be televised and can be seen on Fox Sports South, with Bob Rathbun and Dan Bonner on the call. Tech fans can catch all three game on WREK 91.1 FM in Atlanta. Fans also can get live stats on Gametracker on RamblinWreck.com.

The Last Time We Met…: In a battle of top-10 teams, No. 8 Georgia Tech gave No. 1 Virginia all it could handle but the Cavaliers took the series. In the opener, the much-anticipated pitching showdown between Tech’s Mark Pope and Virginia’s Danny Hultzen more than lived up to the hype. The Yellow Jackets led 1-0 after six before the Cavs rallied for three in the seventh on their way to a 6-2 victory. Kyle Wren’s fifth-inning squeeze bunt gave Tech the lead and Pope allowed one hit over six. But David Coleman’s three-run homer in the seventh proved decisive. Tech managed only two runs and seven hits in eight innings against Hultzen, who struck out 12, with Wren and Mott Hyde each getting two hits. Pope went 7 2/3 innings, allowing four runs and seven hits, striking out six. On Saturday, the offenses awakened, with Virginia taking the 12-9 victory. The Cavs used RBI doubles from Steven Proscia and Colin Harrington as part of a five-run fifth off Tech starter Jed Bradley that broke open a 2-2 game. Matt Skole went 3-for-5, and Daniel Palka and Zane Evans each had two hits. Palka blasted his sixth homer of the season, a three-run shot in the ninth as part of a Tech rally that fell short. The teams combined for 18 runs and 27 hits in the slugfest. The bats stayed hot in the finale, and this time Georgia Tech had the upper hand, recording a 10-8, come-from-behind victory. Jake Davies went 4-for-4, with three RBIs and Mott Hyde and Brandon Thomas homered to back Buck Farmer, who pitched seven strong innings, allowing four earned runs, while striking out eight. The win was his sixth straight. Hyde’s homer started the decisive three-run fourth. The round-tripper tied the game immediately after Virginia had taken a 4-3 lead. Skole and Davies also drove in runs in the inning. The Jackets would never trail again. Luke Bard earned the save, slamming the door over the final 1 2/3 innings, giving up one run and one hit.

Dee-ing Double: Georgia Tech has been remarkably efficient in turning double plays all season long. Tech comes into the weekend tied for third in the ACC with 48 double plays turned. That’s one off the lead. The “pitcher’s best friend” was especially friendly to the Yellow Jackets on Wednesday night, as they turned a season-high four double plays against Georgia. Coincidentally, second basemen Thomas Smith and shortstop Mott Hyde were involved in all four of them. Virginia will present a challenge in turning two, as it is one of the toughest teams to double up, having hit into only 25 twin-killings, tied for fourth-fewest in the ACC.

Back For Seconds: Several Yellow Jackets sophomores have pleasant memories of their first experience hitting against Virginia. Hyde and catcher Zane Evans had hits in all three games against the Cavs last season, Hyde hit .455 (5-for-11), blasting his second homer of the season in the finale, while Evans hit .400 (4-for-10). Center fielder Kyle Wren had five hits in the series a two-hit and a three-hit game, (he hit .385, 5-for-13), scoring in all three games. Right fielder Daniel Palka also enjoyed the final two games against UVA, going 5-for-10 (.500), with four runs scored and two runs driven in. He homered on Saturday. Senior Jake Davies also had a big series, batting .500 (6-for-12), scoring twice and driving in four runs. Davies had a monster finale, going 4-for-4, with three RBIs and a run scored.

Always On The Run: Last season the offenses dominated the Georgia Tech-Virginia series, with the teams combining for 47 runs and 69 hits and Tech batting .311 (33-for-106), while Virginia hit .316 (36-for-114). That was off pitching staffs that saw five of the six starters selected in last year’s June Draft, including a pair of first-rounders (Hultzen was taken second overall, Bradley was selected 15th). Expect the offense to dominate again this year, as Yellow Jackets and Cavaliers hitters rank in the top five in the ACC in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, hits and runs scored. The Jackets use more power, also ranking in the top five in doubles and homers, while the Cavs use a little more speed, leading the ACC in triples. They also lead the conference in getting plunked, as Wahoos have been hit 78 times. Third baseman Stephen Bruno has been hit the most, ranking tied for sixth in the conference with 11 HBPs. One of the players with whom he’s tied is Tech’s Daniel Palka.

The 30-30 Club: With the win over Georgia on Wednesday night, the Yellow Jackets won their 30th game of the season. It’s the 30th consecutive season that Tech has hit the 30-wins plateau. Head coach Danny Hall has been at the helm for 19 of those seasons. It’s something he’s grown accustomed to, as Hall has never won fewer than 32 games in a season as Tech’s head coach. Thirty wins is almost a rite for Hall, as in his 34 years in baseball, including as a grad assistant coach at Miami (Ohio), an assistant coach at Michigan, and head coach at Kent State, his teams have won at least 30 games 33 times. The only years he missed the mark were in 1988 and 1989, his first two years at Kent. The last time Georgia Tech baseball won fewer than 30 games in a season was 1982, when they went 29-20. That was former head coach Jim Morris’ first season at Tech.

On Deck: Georgia Tech heads into the final week of the regular season with a Tuesday night game at Mercer then a season-ending weekend series against Miami at Russ Chandler. Virginia finishes up with a Tuesday night home game against VCU, then closes its regular season with a weekend set at Maryland.

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