The On-Tech Circle

May 19, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

No. 8 Georgia Tech (38-16, 21-7) at Virginia Tech (29-24, 10-18)

Thursday: Georgia Tech 11, Virginia Tech 4
WP: Mark Pope, (11-3), LP: Joe Mantiply (5-8)
Friday: Jed Bradley (6-2, 3.10) vs. Marc Zecchino (5-5, 4.60), 5:30 p.m. ET
Saturday: Buck Farmer (9-2, 2.81) vs. Joe Parsons (7-2, 2.76), 2:00 p.m. ET

No. 8 Georgia Tech heads into game two of its final series of 2011 tonight in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech still holding out hope of winning the Division. The Jackets would need to sweep the Hokies while homestanding North Carolina swept Virginia. (Virginia’s game was in progress as we went to press).

With Thursday night’s win, Tech continues to build momentum heading into next week’s ACC Tournament. The team has now won seven of nine. With a win in either of the next two games, Tech will have won eight of 10 ACC series and raise its record to 4-1 in ACC road series. Tech is 9-4 in ACC road games, with tonight and tomorrow left to play.

The Hokies had won five of their last eight, before Thursday night’s loss. They continue to struggle at home, where they have dropped 11 of 13 conference games. They are 0-4 in ACC series.

Georgia Tech is 5-2 against Virginia Tech in games played at English Field and has won 17 of the 26 games between the teams. Prior to last season, when the Jackets dropped three of four — two of three at Russ Chandler Stadium and their match-up in the ACC Tournament — they hadn’t lost two straight games against the Hokies since losing the inaugural two games of the series in 1980 and ’81.

About Last Night: The Yellow Jackets took advantage of four Virginia Tech errors and rallied for nine unanswered runs to take Thursday night’s series opener, 11-4 Shortstop Jacob Esch went 4-for-6, with two RBI and two runs scored, including his fifth homer of the season, that tied the game at 3-3 and began a four-run seventh inning. Zane Evans added two hits and three RBIs and Sam Dove and Jake Davies also had multi-hit games for the Jackets, who pounded out 14 hits. Down 3-2 with one out in the seventh, Esch took a 2-2 pitch out to left to tie the game. Later in the inning, with the bases loaded, Dove reached on an error by third baseman Johnny Morales, which allowed two runs to score. The Jackets added five more runs in the eighth, again, helped by a Hokies error, this time by first baseman Ronnie Shaban. Evans’ two-run single was the big blow in the inning. Mark Pope got the win for Georgia Tech, going seven innings and allowing three runs and seven hits. He struck out seven and walked four.

Wren Wraps Up: Freshman Kyle Wren enters the final weekend at or near the top of several categories. He leads the ACC in hits, with 83, an eight-hit lead over Virginia’s John Hicks and 13th-most in the nation, his .374 batting average is second only to Clemson’s Brad Miller (.429), who has had 66 fewer at-bats (222-156), while he holds a tenuous two-point lead over third-place David Coleman of UVA. Wren’s .497 slugging percentage also puts him in the top-20 in the ACC, while his.436 on-base percentage ranks 15th. He’s in a three-way tie for second in runs with 51, with Virginia’s Chris Taylor and Clemson’s John Hinson, and is four back of conference leader Richie Shaffer of Clemson. Wren’s six triples are tied for the conference lead with Duke’s Chris Marconcini, while his 109 total bases are seventh in the conference. And just to show that he’s not all offense, Wren is still perfect fielding for the season.

No Runs For You!: Georgia Tech pitchers have been among the stingiest in the conference all year long. The Yellow Jackets are second in the ACC in ERA (2.77) and opposing batting average (.227), with 456 strikeouts (third). Virginia Tech’s pitchers have pitched to a 4.49 ERA, with 407 K’s, while opponents have hit .267. The Jackets staff has pitched seven shutouts on the season, one shy of the school record. The record, first set in 1906 has been matched two other times, in 1971 and, most recently, in 1997.

The Buck Stops ’em Here: Sophomore Buck Farmer has been sensational heading down the stretch. The ACC Pitcher of the week last week after allowing one earned run in 15 innings in starts at Illinois-Chicago and against North Carolina — he got the win last Sunday in the 300th career ACC victory for Head Coach Danny Hall — Farmer has been tough to catch up to. He has pitched into the seventh inning in each of his last six starts, totaling 43 2/3 innings, and has allowed 17 earned runs, a 3.50 ERA. In that span, he had better than a 4-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio (38 K’s vs. 9 BB’s).

The Road to 355: Both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech come into this series with 355 runs scored, yet have gotten there in very different ways. The Yellow Jackets have hit their way, batting .310 as a team (17 points higher than the Hokies), have 46 more hits (572-533) and a 34 point edge in on-base percentage (.389 to .365). The Hokies, meanwhile have slugged their way, as they lead the conference in slugging percentage (.487, 42 points higher than Georgia Tech), doubles (128, 16 more), triples (25, 10 more) and homers (58, 21 more). The Hokies neither walk much (164 walks, second lowest in the conference, Tech has 225) nor strikeout much (333, fourth lowest, 48 fewer than the Jackets.).

On Deck: Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech will join the rest of the ACC at Durham Bulls Athletic Park for the ACC Baseball Championship, which begins on Wednesday and runs through Sunday.

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