The On-Tech Circle: Georgia Tech (36-24, 12-18, ACC) vs. College of Charleston (37-20, 21-9)

May 31, 2012

Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –

Starting Pitchers: Georgia Tech Cole Pitts, RHP (6-4, 4.36) vs. Christian Powell, RHP (9-3, 2.39), 1:00 p.m.

Georgia Tech will try and carry over the momentum from last week’s ACC Tournament into this weekend’s NCAA Tournament as they open play today in the Gainesville Regional against College of Charleston. First pitch at Alfred A. McKethan Stadium is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.

The Yellow Jackets cemented their 26th NCAA Tournament berth in 28 years, by taking home the school’s eighth ACC Tournament title and fourth in the Danny Hall era. Led by Tournament MVP Jake Davies and All-Tournament performers Zane Evans, Brandon Thomas and Thomas Smith, the Jackets put on an awesome five-day display, knocking off top-seeded Florida State, No. 4 Virginia, and No. 5 Clemson in pool play then beating No. 6 Miami in the Championship Game. Tech outscored the opposition 35-15, and trailed for a total of 1 2/3 innings. Tech will be looking to reach the Super Regionals for the sixth time and the first since 2006.

The Cougars tied for the Southern Conference regular-season championship but stumbled in the Conference Tournament, falling to The Citadel, 8-6, in 11 innings, then Elon, 14-12. The Cougars showed great resolve in both games, falling behind 6-2 to Citadel, then 11-5 to Elon but took one game to extra innings and rallied for three runs and put the tying run in scoring position in the ninth before falling short in the other. Centerfielder Marty Gantt, the SoCon Player of the Year, hit .500 (5-for-10) with two runs and four RBIs for Charleston, which will be making its fifth NCAA Regional in nine years.

With a Yellow Jackets win today, they would play the winner of top-seed Florida and Bethune-Cookman, on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. Should they lose, they would take on the loser of Florida-Bethune Cookman at 1:00. On Sunday, the loser’s bracket game starts at noon followed by a 6:00 game, which would conclude pool play and possibly the Region. Should a deciding game be necessary, it would take place Monday night at 7:00.

Today’s game will be televised on ESPN3 with Mark Neely and Danny Kanell calling the action. Tech fans also can catch the game on WREK 91.1 FM in Atlanta with Nolan Alexander and Wade Rogers on the call. Live stats are available on Gametracker on RamblinWreck.com.

Today’s Starters: Georgia Tech: Cole Pitts: With a two-start winning streak and a four-start unbeaten streak, PItts gets the nod, instead of Friday night starter Buck Farmer. The freshman right-hander has pitched to a 2.91 ERA over his last four starts (seven earned runs in 21 2/3 innings). Since moving into the rotation on March 28, Pitts is 4-3, with a 4.36 ERA. His last time out, in the ACC Tournament, he threw five innings against Virginia, allowing four runs, but only two of them earned, allowing eight hits.

College of Charleston: Christian Powell: The junior right-hander was the Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year and First-Team All-SoCon after going 9-3 with a conference-low 2.39 ERA and holding opponents to a .240 batting average. In the Southern Conference Tournament, Powell allowed five runs (two earned) and eight hits over five innings. He left losing, 5-2, but got off the hook when the Cougars rallied for four in the eighth inning.

The Last Time We Met…: The Yellow Jackets last met the Cougars in the 2006 Atlanta Super Regional, with Tech sweeping C of C, 5-0 and 12-5. In the opener, Blake Wood and Brad Rulon combined to shutout the Cougars, while Matt Wieters went 2-for-4, with a homer and two RBIs. Jeff Kindel added a homer for the Jackets, who were out-hit 11-9. Kindel’s solo shot in the second inning was all the offense Tech would need. Wood, who pitched the first 6 2/3, and Rulon frustrated Charleston, which left 11 on base, including leaving the bases loaded in the fourth and stranding five over the final three innings. The next day, Georgia Tech punched its ticket to the College World Series, behind Lee Hyde, who allowed two earned runs and six hits, while striking out eight over eight innings, and  first baseman Whit Robbins, who 3-for-6 with a homer and three RBIs. Steven Blackwood, Kindel and Wes Hodges each drove in two runs for the Jackets, who piled up 15 hits. Trailing 2-1, the Jackets took the lead for good in the fourth, blew open the game with five runs in the fifth, then sealed the game with four runs in the ninth. Robbins’ two-run shot in the fourth inning followed a Luke Murton single and put the Jackets up for good, 3-2. The next inning Kindel hit a two-run homer as part of the five-run fifth.

Downright Offensive: So just how devastating was Georgia Tech’s offense during the ACC Tournament? They hit a collective .329 — that’s 33 points higher than they hit during the 2012 season and 59 points higher than they hit in ACC play. The nearest conference opponent was Virginia, which batted. 292. Their 46 runs was 18 more than the nearest team (Miami). Tech’s seven home runs doubled the nearest team, Miami, which hit four, and their 35 runs, and 13 doubles nearly doubled the nearest team, also Miami, which had 18 and 7. Tech’s discipline at the plate led to them receiving 19 walks. While Davies and Zane Evans were the biggest guns for Tech, there were plenty of other heroes, as Sam Dove hit .385, with a double, a triple, four walks and five runs scored, Connor Lynch, who hit .500 (4-for-8),w ht a pair of doubles, three runs scored and an RBI, Brandon Thomas, who doubled twice, drew seven walks, drove in three runs and scored eight times and Mott Hyde, who had a double, two homers and six RBIs.

30/30 Revision: Georgia Tech has been superb defensively over its last 30 games, fielding at a .967 clip and turning 30 double plays. Compare that to the first 30 games of the season, when they fielded .954 with 25 DPs. The Jackets have stopped beating themselves, having committed more than one error only eight times over the last 30 games. They committed multiple errors in 16 of the season’s first 30 contests. The stability on the infield can be contributed to…well, the stability on the infield, as the combination of Thomas Smith at second, Mott Hyde at short and Sam Dove at third has played the last 35 games together. That’s in contrast to the eight different combinations used previously.

Amazing Jake: So how good was Jake Davies in Greensboro. Davies hit .438 in the series (7-for-16), with four homers, a double and 11 RBIs on his way to becoming the eighth Yellow Jacket to win ACC Tournament MVP honors. He drove in the game-winning run against Florida State, Clemson, and Miami, and scored the winning run against Virginia. He also was lights out in the win over Clemson, which clinched Tech’s spot in the championship game, allowing one run and two hits over six innings. His two-run homer in the top of the first inning gave himself all the run support he’d need in the 5-1 win.

Three Is A Magic Number: Zane Evans, who actually hit .444 (8-for-18), six points higher than Davies, found that good things happened in threes during the ACC Tournament. He had three doubles (along with a homer and 10 RBIs), drove in six runs against Virginia, had three hits against Clemson, then drove in a three runs, including a pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth, against Miami. He closed the championship game by throwing three perfect innings, striking out, three.

How Random: There’s not a whole lot of recent history with Georgia Tech among its opponents in the Gainesville Regional. Tech has only played College of Charleston nine times, but the history is good, as they are 9-0. Today will be the first time the teams have met outside of Atlanta. The history with Florida is deeper, as the teams have met 91 times, with Florida holding a 33-57-1 edge, but the teams haven’t met since 1982. There is no history with Bethune-Cookman, as the Jackets have never met the Wildcats.

Gimme Six: The Yellow Jackets come in playing their best baseball of the season and have a chance to do something today that they haven’t done all season — win their sixth straight game. Tech’s current five-game winning streak is a season-high, achieved twice previously. But this streak may be more noteworthy not just for the timing, but for the quality of opponent. The first five-gamer came in the opening weekend, with two wins over Winthrop, another over Kent State, a mid-week win at Georgia Southern and the opener of the home-opening weekend series with Ohio State. The next streak began with the season finale against the Buckeyes, included a midweek win over Kennesaw State then a three-game home sweep of Rutgers. Tech’s next streak of note was a four-game streak in early May, sweeping Charlotte then topping Georgia.

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