The On-Tech Circle: No. 21 Georgia Tech (15-9) vs. Georgia Southern (11-13)

March 26, 2012

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Tuesday: Josh Heddinger, RHP (1-1, 4.91) vs. Justin Hess, RHP (1-0, 7.45), 6:00 p.m.
Wednesday: Cole Pitts, RHP (2-1, 4.21) vs. Josh Adams, RHP (0-1, 6.95), 6:00 p.m.

No. 21 Georgia Tech opens up a five-game homestead with a two-game midweek series against the Georgia Southern Eagles. First pitch for both games is at 6:00 p.m.

The Jackets are coming off a roller coaster double-header split on Saturday afternoon at Boston College. The Jackets lost the first game, 4-3, as Boston College rallied for two runs in the ninth. The home team was helped by a close safe call on what would have been a game-ending double-play grounder served up by Alex Cruz. Jake Davies (0-1), was the hard-luck loser. Starter Luke Bard received a no-decision, despite pitching brilliantly over seven, allowing two runs on six hits. Brandon Thomas and Mott Hyde each had two hits for the Yellow Jackets, while Hyde, Sam Dove and Daniel Palka each drove in a run. In the nightcap, Tech’s pitching again was superb, as Dusty Isaacs and Cole Pitts combined to shut down the Eagles in a 2-1 victory. Isaacs allowed one run and three hits over five, striking out six. Pitts followed and finished up, throwing four shutout innings, allowing only four hits. Palka’s two-out RBI single in the first made it 2-0 and proved to be the difference.

The Eagles are coming off a tough 9-8 loss at Furman on Sunday afternoon, which prevented them from winning the series with their SoCon rival. Southern led 8-5 after six, but allowed three runs in the seventh and one in the eighth. Their losses on Saturday and Sunday dropped them to 3-6 in Southern Conference play and come on the heels of a season-high-tying three-game winning streak. Four different Eagles had multi-hit games in the series finale, as Southern outhit the home team, 13-11.

Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern renew their interstate hostilities that date back to 1947. The Yellow Jackets have had the better of it, holding a 90-28 edge in the series and are 50-14 in home games. Tech has won nine of the last 11 in the series and nine of the last 10 at the Rusty C.

Both games will be simulcast on WREK, 91.1 FM with Nolan Alexander and Wade Rogers calling the action. Tech fans also can get live stats via Gametracker on RamblinWreck.com.

Last Time We Met In Atlanta: The Jackets were ranked 21st when they hosted Southern last season, on March 15 and 16. In the opener, Matthew Grimes and Luke Bard had the Eagles bewaring the Ides of March, as they combined to allow three runs and six hits, while striking out nine in Tech’s 4-3 victory. Grimes went six, yielding only two earned runs on four hits, striking out four and walking two. He then yielded to Bard, who threw the final three, to record his second save. Bard gave up one earned run on two hits, striking out five while walking two. Jacob Esch was the hitting star, going 3-for-4 with a run. Daniel Palka’s RBI triple and Brandon Thomas’ RBI double keyed a two-run third that put Tech ahead for good. The next day wasn’t as tight, as Kyle Wren’s four hits fueled the Jackets’ 13-hit attack in a 12-3 victory. Wren also scored four times. Palka added two more hits and three RBIs, while Zane Evans had two hits. Evans and Matt Skole had RBI doubles and Palka had an RBI single as part of an eight-run second that broke open the game. Dusty Isaacs pitched two innings and got the win in his first career start.

No Holds Bard: Hitters thought it was nightmarish facing Luke Bard once when he was the closer. Imagine what they’re thinking now that they’ll have to face him twice or three times. That appears to be their fate, as the junior righty looks to have cemented his role in the weekend rotation. Bard was superb in the first game Saturday afternoon against Boston College, allowing two earned runs and six hits in seven innings, leaving on the long side of a 3-2 lead. In two starts, Bard has allowed three earned runs in 12 innings (a 2.25 ERA). About the only downside of moving to the rotation is that the right-hander, who began the year on the Stopper of the Year Watch List, now HAS an ERA. That’s something he didn’t have as a reliever, as he hadn’t allowed a run in his first eight appearances, covering 11 innings. Bard finally surrendered a run in the second inning of his first start on March 18 against Virginia Tech (he’d throw three more scoreless innings in the then-career-best five-inning appearance). The run snapped a 15-appearance scoreless streak, covering 26 2/3 innings.

First Off: Georgia Tech continued its knack for coming out swinging — and scoring — over the weekend. The Jackets scored in the first inning in all three games against Boston College, outscoring BC 5-1 in the first frame in the series. Tech now holds a 26-14 edge in the first inning. They dropped two of three against Boston College, but are still 12-3 when scoring first and 10-2 when scoring in the first.

Welcome Back!: Georgia Tech’s early production in Saturday’s double-header against Boston College was interesting because they did it without leadoff man and leading run scorer Kyle Wren and leading run-producer Zane Evans. Wren’s absence was the first of his collegiate career, snapping a streak of 85 consecutive games played. He leads the team in runs scored with 29 (third in the ACC) and is third in hits with 29. His .337 average is 17th in the conference. Evans is 16th at .338 and is in a four-way tie for sixth with 24 RBIs. That tie includes teammate Daniel Palka.

Hot Dove: Sam Dove continues to wield a scalding bat. Thanks to hits in all three games against BC, he carries a career-best 15-game hitting streak into the Ga. Southern series and is hitting .459 during the streak (28-for-61). Against BC, Dove was 6-for-12, going 3-for-5 on Friday night, 1-for-4 in the first game Saturday then 2-for-3 in the second. The six hits gave him 38, the most in the ACC (one more than Chad Pinder of Virginia Tech), and raised his average to .418, second in the ACC (only Florida State’s James Ramsey is hitting higher, at .427, but he has three fewer hits and nine fewer at-bats). Dove also is among ACC leaders in on-base percentage (.490, fourth), runs (23, tied for eighth) and slugging, .571 (13th, but second on the Yellow Jackets behind only Daniel Palka). With two multi-hit games he now has 13 in his last 20 games.

On Deck: Following this series, Georgia Tech gets back into ACC play, hosting a weekend series against Duke. Georgia Southern goes home for a weekend showdown against Southern Conference-leading College of Charleston.

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