The On-Tech Circle: Georgia Tech (31-22, 11-16) at No. 21 Miami (32-18, 14-13)

May 15, 2012

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Thursday: Buck Farmer, RHP (7-3, 3.49) vs. Eric Erickson, LHP (8-5, 2.96), 7:00 p.m.
Friday: Jake Davies, LHP (0-2, 4.43) vs. Steven Ewing, LHP (5-2, 3.32), 7:00 p.m.
Saturday: Cole Pitts, RHP (4-4, 4.76) vs. Eric Whaley, RHP (3-3, 2.58), 1:00 p.m.

Georgia Tech has a simple mission as it enters its final 2012 regular-season series against Miami at Russ Chandler Stadium: Win and you’re in. The Yellow Jackets enter holding the eighth and final seed to qualify for the ACC Tournament.

The Yellow Jackets will try to finish strong following a hard-fought ACC series loss at Virginia last weekend. The Jackets trailed in all three games and valiantly fought back in each. They climbed out of an early three-run deficit Friday before falling late, 6-5, rallied on Saturday, before falling, 4-2, then, on Sunday, pulled out one of the most dramatic victories of the season. Tech rallied for two runs in the ninth to force extra innings, tying the game on a two-out infield hit by Kyle Wren, then won it in the 10th on a Zane Evans homer. Evans recorded the final two outs in the bottom half to earn the save.

The Hurricanes clinched a spot in the ACC Tournament by taking two of three against Wake Forest. On Friday, they rode lefty Eric Erickson, who threw six shutout innings allowing only one hit. A six-run second blew open the game. After dropping the Saturday game, the ‘Canes clinched a berth in the Tournament with a 6-3 Sunday win. Brad Fieger’s seventh-inning grand slam snapped a 2-2 tie.

The Georgia Tech-Miami rivalry dates back to 1958. The Yellow Jackets trail 29-47-2 all-time and are 13-18 in Atlanta. Lately, though, things have tilted the Yellow Jackets’ way, as they are riding a four-game series winning streak and have won eight of the last 10 meetings.

The entire series will be televised on CSS with Matt Stewart and Randy Carroll on the call. Tech fans also can catch all three games on WREK 91.1 FM in Atlanta with Nolan Alexander and Will Long on the mikes. Live stats are available on Gametracker on RamblinWreck.com.

The Last Time We Met…: Last March 25-27, No. 12 Georgia Tech went into Coral Gables and swept the Hurricanes. On Friday night, they pounded out 14 hits in an 8-3 win. Matt Skole and Sam Dove had three hits each and Mark Pope allowed two earned runs and eight hits over six, striking out nine. Two-out hits, a Jake Davies RBI double and Dove’s RBI single, in the two-run fifth gave the Jackets the lead for good. On Saturday, the Jackets exploded for nine runs with two out in the 10th inning to take a 12-3 decision. Pinch-hitter Evan Martin’s two-out homer off Miami’s Daniel Miranda broke a 3-3 tie and opened the flood gates. Martin had one hit in 10 previous plate appearances on the season. Mott Hyde hit his first college homer and drove in five runs for the Jackets. Freshman Devin Stanton was the beneficiary of the fireworks, earning his first collegiate win. Stanton came on in the ninth and threw three straight strikes, to whiff the only hitter he faced, stranding the winning run at third base. In the finale, Buck Farmer sealed the Jackets sweep, allowing one run and three hits over eight innings. Tech broke a 1-1 tie with two in the ninth, scoring on a Skole RBI double and a Zane Evans squeeze bunt. It was Tech’s first sweep over Miami since 1967 and the first ever in Miami.

Tie-breaking Up Loose Ends: So what will take for Georgia Tech to get into the ACC Tournament (something they’ve never missed in their 33 years in the conference)? Basically, win two games. If the Jackets secure two wins, the only way they could be eliminated would be for Wake Forest to sweep Clemson AND Virginia Tech to sweep at North Carolina. Should Tech win one or fewer games, that also would open the door for Maryland, which would have to sweep Virginia, and Boston College, which would need to sweep Duke. B.C. holds the tiebreaker over Tech. Tech and Maryland did not face each other this season, so the tiebreaker would depend on which team finishes with the best record in the Conference, Florida State, currently No. 1, and North Carolina (2 1/2 games back). If Florida State finishes on top Maryland gets in, as Tech was 0-3 vs. FSU and Maryland was 1-2. If North Carolina win, Tech is in, as Tech was 2-1 vs. the Heels while Maryland was 1-2. Wake Forest holds the tiebreaker over Tech, but should Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech finish in a three-way tie the Jackets and Demon Deacons are in, the Hokies are out. Another interesting twist would come should the Yellow Jackets sweep the series. Georgia Tech would not only be in the tournament, they would be seeded No. 6, the spot currently held by Miami!

Late Magic: Sunday afternoon’s win over Virginia was Georgia Tech’s first win of the season when trailing after eight innings. The game saw the Yellow Jackets score runs in the seventh, ninth and tenth innings to turn a 3-1 deficit after six, then a 4-2 deficit after seven, into a monumental 5-4 win. Prior to the ninth-inning uprising, Cavaliers relievers hadn’t allowed a run in 11 2/3 innings in the series and hadn’t surrendered an earned-run over 38 2/3 innings in ACC play. Scoring late has been a trend for the Yellow Jackets, who two weekends earlier against North Carolina scored 13 of their 21 series runs in the final three frames. The next Friday, against Clemson, Tech overcame a three-run ninth with a three-run ninth of its own, then won in 13 on a Daniel Palka walk-off homer, and, the following Sunday they won in 11 against Charlotte, again tying the game in the 10th after surrendering a lead in the top half of the inning and again on a Palka walk-off hit, this time a single. Tech is 3-1 in extra-inning games this season and is 6-1 over the last two years.

Conference-play Champions (Hitting): Brandon Thomas has been tremendous all season but has been especially big in ACC play. Thomas enters the season’s final series hitting .364 in conference play (32-for-88) and leads the team with three triples, a .580 slugging percentage and 51 total bases. Daniel Palka has hit a team-high six homers and is second on the team with a .521 slugging percentage, and 50 total bases. Jake Davies, who is right behind Palka with four round-trippers, is running away with the RBI lead, having driven in 27 runs — or one a game — in conference play. Thomas is next with 18.

Conference-play Champions (Pitching): Georgia Tech’s pitching in ACC play has been led by ace starter Buck Farmer and ace-in-the-hole reliever Alex Cruz. Farmer and Cruz are both 4-2, accounting for eight of the Jackets’ 11 wins within the Conference. Farmer has pitched 61 2/3 innings, an average of almost seven innings a start, striking out 57 while walking 19. Cruz leads the team with 11 appearances, and his 32 1/3 innings are second only to Farmer. He has allowed only three earned runs, a 0.84 ERA. Opponents are hitting a paltry .145 against him average have two extra-base hits (a double and a homer).

On Deck: Georgia Tech plans on joining Miami at next week’s ACC Tournament, which begins Wednesday at NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro, N.C. The Jackets can finish sixth, seventh or eighth. Miami is currently sixth.

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