The On-Tech Circle: No. 6 Georgia Tech (21-5, 9-0) at Duke (15-12, 2-7)

March 31, 2011

The On-Tech Circle
By Jon Cooper

No. 6 Georgia Tech (21-5, 9-0) at Duke (15-12, 2-7)

Friday: Mark Pope (6-0, 0.59) vs. LHP Dillon Haviland (1-1, 1.64, 22.0, 13 SO), 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: Jed Bradley (3-0, 1.67) vs. RHP Dennis O’Grady (4-1, 4.50, 34.0, 27 SO), 2:00 p.m.
Sunday: Buck Farmer (4-1, 2.15) vs. Marcus Stroman (1-1. 3.42, 23.2 IP, 30 SO), 1:00 p.m.

Sixth-ranked Georgia Tech goes back out on the road looking to keep its perfect ACC road record in tact when they travel to Durham, N.C., to face Duke at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Tech saw its nation-high 16-game winning streak come to an end Tuesday afternoon, when they let a 2-0 lead slip away, losing 4-2 to Mercer at Russ Chandler Stadium. Matthew Grimes pitched five three-hit innings and left with a 2-1 lead, before the Bears forged a late comeback. Matt Skole was 3-for-4 with an RBI and Kyle Wren was 2-for-5 with a run.

Duke also fell on Tuesday, dropping a 4-1 decision at Campbell. The Blue Devils have lost seven in a row overall and have been swept in their last two ACC series, at Clemson and at North Carolina. They were 2-1 in their lone home conference series against N.C. State and are 13-4 overall at DBAP.

Georgia Tech has dominated the series, leading 80-27 all-time, and is 10-4 in the last 14 games played in Durham, but lost the last series in 2009.

Last Time We Met: Georgia Tech swept the Blue Devils, avenging the series loss in 2009. Deck McGuire got Tech off on the right foot with seven strong innings, limiting Duke to three runs and six hits, with seven strikeouts in the 13-3 win. Tech banged out 13 hits, with Chase Burnette, who had a homer and three RBIs, and Cole Leonida each getting three. In the middle game, Tech pounded out a season-high 24 hits, blasting Duke, 21-5. Tony Plagman had four hits and Derek Dietrich, and Jeff Rowland had three each. Dietrich smashed two homers and drove in four runs, while Rowland homered and drove in a career-best five runs. Brandon Cumpton was the beneficiary of the offense, going seven innings to get the win. Burnette sealed the sweep on Sunday, hitting two homers, and Matt Skole and Thomas Nichols each had one to back Jed Bradley in the 9-4 win.

Dove Potion No. 9: Sophomore Sam Dove has been on fire since being inserted into the starting lineup in the ninth spot for the March 16 game against Georgia Southern. Dove singled against Mercer, extending his current hitting streak to nine games, tied for the current high, with Matt Skole. He is batting .433 in the streak (13-for-30) and has raised his average to .394 on the season, .526 in conference play. He was hitting .143 (1-for-7) in the team’s first 17 games.

0 is He: Mark Pope not only has been one of the nation’s best pitchers, but one of the stingiest in Georgia Tech history. He enters the weekend with the third-lowest ERA in the country, an ACC-low 0.59, (three runs in 45 2/3 innings), and with his back-to-back complete-game shutouts of Rutgers (March 4) and Maryland (March 11), has moved into a tie for the school career lead in shutouts, with three. He’s the last pitcher to have three whitewashes in a career since Chuck Crowder (1996-99). Bill Pridgen (1971-72), Jerry Bass (1974-77) and Stu Rogers (1980-84), also twirled three shutouts in their Yellow Jacket careers.

E-I-E-I-NO: Buck Farmer is riding a four-game winning streak coming into this weekend’s series. Since allowing seven runs (four earned) in his loss to St. John’s, the talented sophomore has allowed a total of seven runs, five earned, in his last three starts, covering 28 innings. That’s a 1.61 ERA. His ERA in ACC is even lower, sitting a 1.59 (4 ER in 22 2/3 innings). With his 4-1 start, Farmer has raised his career record to 9-2.

Let the Children Play: When Georgia Tech and Duke get together this weekend the series will feature two of the five youngest teams in the nation. The Yellow Jackets have the most first-year players, with 17 freshman on their roster, all of whom have played and 10 of whom have started. The Jackets put six of them under fire in the season opener. Tech’s freshmen have started a combined 132 games worth of starts, led by Kyle Wren, Daniel Palka and Mott Hyde, each with 26. Duke, which has only one senior, is the youngest team in the nation, with 15 freshmen accounting for 56 percent of the roster, tied with Washington for fourth-most in the nation, and starts four freshman, amongst them, third baseman Jordan Betts, 1B/OF Chris Marconcini, OF Anthony D’Alessandro and shortstop Angelo LaBruna. They also have six freshman pitchers (46 percent of the staff).

On Deck: Georgia Tech travels to Kennesaw State on Tuesday then comes home for the weekend showdown with No. 2 Virginia in a battle for Coastal Division supremacy. Duke has a busy week, hosting Wofford on Tuesday, traveling to UNC Greensboro on Wednesday then welcoming Boston College to Durham over the weekend.

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