Top-Ranked Tech Baseball Faces Atlanta Braves on Thursday

Feb. 25, 2003

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Georgia Tech, the nation’s top-ranked team according to Baseball America, travels to Orlando for their biannual exhibition game against the Atlanta Braves at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex. The Braves take on Georgia Tech and Georgia in opposite years as their first game of spring training. First pitch is set for 1 p.m.

The Yellow Jackets have faced the Braves on 10 previous occasions, and the Braves have won all 10 meetings. Tech last played the Braves in 2001 when the Yellow Jackets were also ranked No. 1 in the nation, and lost 18-4.

The game will be carried by WREK-Radio (91.1 FM in Atlanta) and on the internet at www.wrek.org.

GEORGIA TECH UPDATE (6-0, 0-0 ACC)

Georgia Tech is off to a 6-0 start, winning six straight games away from home. The Yellow Jackets opened the season with a pair of wins over Georgia Southern in Statesboro, then defeated Mercer in Macon, and swept a three game tournament in Savannah (Rider, Michigan and Armstrong Atlantic).

Tech’s early success is largely due to the fantastic performances of its pitching staff. The unit has posted a 2.00 ERA in six games, and is holding its opponents to a .188 batting average. LHP Kyle Bakker (2-0, 0.75) is the ace of the Tech staff, while the bullpen has combined for a 1.85 ERA in 24.1 innings, holding opposing hitters to a .167 batting average. Tech pitchers have walked just 14 batters in 54 innings of work (2.33 walks per nine innings).

Senior RHP Chris Goodman (1-0, 3.72) has opened the season as Tech’s No. 2 starter while sophomore RHP Kyle Schmidt (1-0, 2.25) earned a win as Tech’s No. 3 starter last weekend in Savannah. A trio of righties – senior Jeff Watchko (0-0, 3.86), junior Brian Burks (0-0, 0.00, 1 SV) and freshman Micah Owings (2-0, 0.00) have been the main workhorses out of the bullpen. Freshman RHP Jason Neighborgall (1-0, 0.00) and sophomore RHP Andrew Kown (0-0, 2.25) have both been impressive in their first two outings of the season as well.

Offensively, the Yellow Jackets have hit just .270 as a team through the first two weeks of the season but they are averaging 8.6 runs per game largely due to a .414 team on base percentage (42 walks in six games). The team has been led by 1B Clifton Remole (.409-0-6), C Mike Nickeas (.316-1-7) and 2B Eric Patterson (.308-1-4). A pair of freshmen have both hit two home runs through the first six games – SS Tyler Greene (.240-2-8) and DH Micah Owings (.176-2-3). Tech is 14-for-17 in stolen base attempts through the first six games of the year.

GEORGIA TECH VS. ATLANTA BRAVES

ATLANTA BRAVES LEAD, 10-0

Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Braves have played on 10 previous occasions, and the Braves have won all 10 meetings.

The teams played in early April at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium from 1977-79 before the series was resumed in 1987 in early March in Florida at the Braves spring training sites.

Listed below are the yearly scores between Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Braves:

4-6-77  1L      0-74-5-78  1L      3-134-4-79  1L      0-53-5-87  2L      3-93-4-93  2L      0-33-2-95  2L      1-52-27-97 2L      2-73-4-99  3L      5-153-1-01  3L      4-18

Site key: 1 – Atlanta Fulton County Stadium; 2 – West Palm Beach, Fla.; 3 – Orlando, Fla.

STARTING PITCHER NOTES

Thursday: JASON NEIGHBORGALL (RHP) 1-0, 0.00 ERA

Highly heralded freshman Jason Neighborgall will get the starting nod against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday afternoon. Neighborgall is expected to go no more than two innings, and the Yellow Jackets are expected to use four or more pitchers in the game in preparation for their upcoming weekend series with George Washington at Russ Chandler Stadium.

Neighborgall made his collegiate debut and first career start last Wednesday at Mercer where he worked three shutout innings. He made his second appearance of the season last weekend in Savannah, recording a 1-2-3 inning in relief on just six pitches.

The hard-throwing right hander, who has been clocked as high as 101 MPH in intrasquad games, regularly throws in the mid to upper 90’s. Touted as one of the top high school pitchers in the country last season, Neighborgall was a seventh-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2002 but elected to enroll in Georgia Tech instead.

Friday: KYLE BAKKER (LHP) 2-0, 0.75 ERA

Junior Kyle Bakker will start on Friday in the first game of the George Washington series, and he will be making his third start of the season and the 27th start of his collegiate career.

Bakker is 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA in 2003 after earning wins over Georgia Southern and Rider in his first two starts of the season. For his career, Bakker stands at 19-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 192 innings pitched. Bakker currently ranks as the top command pitcher in school history, allowing just 1.64 walks per nine innings.

Bakker enters Friday’s game having won six consecutive decisions, and he has not suffered a defeat since April 26, 2002 against Virginia.

A preseason All-America in 2003, Bakker earned second team All-America honors in 2002 after earning Freshman All-America honors in 2001. The 6-9 lefty spent the summer of 2002 with the USA Baseball National team, and he posted a 3-2 record and a 2.14 ERA in six starts.

Saturday: CHRIS GOODMAN (RHP) 0-0, 5.79 ERA

Senior Chris Goodman will get the ball in game two of the weekend series against George Washington. Goodman will be making his third start of the 2003 season and the 16th start of his Georgia Tech career.

Goodman is 0-0 with a 3.72 ERA this spring, earning no decision in each of his first two starts against Georgia Southern and Michigan. Opponents are batting .237 against him, and he has walked two batters in 9.2 innings of work.

The 6-0 right hander ended the 2002 season as Tech’s No. 2 starter, and he posted an 8-2 record and a 4.41 ERA in 81.2 innings of work.

A transfer from NC State following the 2000 season, Goodman made the successful conversion from shortstop to pitcher last season. Goodman pitched one inning of relief in the series at Georgia Southern last year, allowing two runs on three hits in his collegiate pitching debut.

Goodman spent the summer of 2002 with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod League, posting a 2.61 ERA in 20.2 innings of work.

The starting pitcher for Sunday’s game against George Washington is TBA.

HALL TOPS 400 WINS AT TECH

Head coach Danny Hall won his 400th game at Georgia Tech on Feb. 21 against Rider. The Tech skipper, now in his 10th year at Georgia Tech, becomes the second coach in school history to reach the 400-victory plateau. Jim Morris won 504 games from 1982-93 to rank as the winningest coach in school history. Hall’s winning percentage of .700 (402-172) is currently the best in school history behind Morris’ mark of .674 (504-244-1).

In 17 years as a head coach at Kent State and Georgia Tech, Hall’s career record currently stands at 610-289 (.679).

BRAVE CONNECTIONS

In addition to playing just a few miles down the road from Turner Field, Georgia Tech has many connections to the Atlanta Braves. Listed below are just a few of those ties between the Braves and the Yellow Jackets.

Tech freshman SS Tyler Greene was a second round draft choice of the Braves coming out of high school in 2002, but Greene elected to enroll at Tech instead. Another former Tech shortstop, Victor Menocal, was a sixth round draft pick of the Braves out of high school in 1998. Menocal also enrolled at Tech and finished his career last year as the school’s all-time leader in at bats. He is now pitching in the Philadelphia Phillies organization … Former Tech second baseman Richard Lewis and pitcher L.J. Yankosky are both currently in the Braves organization. Lewis spent the 2002 season with the class A Myrtle Beach Pelicans, while Yankosky played at Richmond and Myrtle Beach … Former Tech outfielder Darren Bragg spent the 2002 season with the Braves. Bragg was one of 10 former Tech players who were in the big leagues last year … Braves’ bullpen coach Bobby Dews is a 1960 Tech baseball letterman. Dews also lettered in basketball at Tech in 1959-60 … Braves’ starter Adam Wainwright was a Georgia Tech signee in 2000 but opted to play professional baseball after being a first-round draft pick of the Braves that year.

VERSUS THE STATE OF GEORGIA

Georgia Tech is 4-0 against teams from the state of Georgia in 2003, and Tech posted a 13-1 mark against its in-state rivals during the 2002 season. Tech is 2-0 against Georgia Southern and 1-0 against both Mercer and Armstrong Atlantic State this year.

Since 1999, Georgia Tech owns a 46-8 (.852) record against its in-state foes. The Yellow Jackets are 88-25 (.779) against teams from Georgia in 10 years under head coach Danny Hall.

PITCHING SHINES IN EARLY GAMES

Georgia Tech’s 6-0 start to the 2003 season is due largely to the success of the Yellow Jacket pitching staff. The unit, which has seen 12 different players take the mound in the first six games of the year, has combined for a 2.00 ERA, allowing just 12 earned runs in 54 innings. Tech pitchers are holding opponents to a .188 batting average. More impressively, the staff has walked just 14 batters in six games, holding opponents to a .266 on base percentage.

The Tech bullpen has been especially effective through the first three games, posting a 1.85 ERA in 24.1 innings.

PATTERSON CLIMBS TECH STOLEN BASE CHARTS

Sophomore second baseman Eric Patterson has stolen five bases this season, raising his career total to 46 steals in 73 career games. Patterson’s 46 stolen bases already ranks 10th in Tech history, and he can climb into the school’s all-time top five with just 20 more stolen bases. Ty Griffin (1986-88) holds the school record with 127 stolen bases.

Patterson’s 41 steals as a freshman in 2002 was the second highest single season total in school history.

TECH PICKED FIRST IN ACC PRESEASON COACHES POLL

The Atlantic Coast Conference’s nine head coaches selected Georgia Tech as the top pick to win the conference championship in 2003 with six first place votes and a total of 77 points. Florida State finished a close second with 73 points and two first place votes.

Wake Forest finished in third place tallying 65 points and one first place vote. Clemson filled the fourth place slot with 54 points, while North Carolina placed fifth in the balloting with 41 points. The Tar Heels were followed by NC State who finished with 30 points and then Virginia with 29 points. Duke was selected to finish eighth with 19 points and Maryland ninth with 17 points.

TECH OPENS SEASON WITH NO. 1 NATIONAL RANKING

For the second time in the last three years, and for the third time in 10 years under head coach Danny Hall, Georgia Tech opened the season as the No. 1 ranked team in the country. Tech opened as the top team in the polls in 1994 with a team that featured Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek and Jay Payton and lost in the national championship game to Oklahoma. The 2001 team, led by first-round picks Mark Teixeira and Richard Lewis, started No. 1 but failed to advance pas the NCAA Regionals after suffering through an injury-riddled season.

DRAFT DODGERS

Eleven Georgia Tech players have previously been drafted by major league teams, the highest concentration of drafted players ever on one Yellow Jacket team. The 2000 squad also featured 11 players previously drafted.

The list includes Kyle Bakker (37th round, Philadelphia, 2000), Brandon Boggs (50th, New York Yankees, 2001),Chris Goodman (16th, Florida, 2002), Tyler Greene (2nd, Atlanta, 2002), Jason Neighborgall (7th, Boston, 2002), Micah Owings (2nd, Colorado, 2002), Eric Patterson (23rd, Colorado, 2001), Philip Perry (41st, New York Mets, 1999; 48th, St. Louis, 2002), Kyle Schmidt (29th, Baltimore, 2001), Jeremy Slayden (20th, San Diego, 2001) and Jeff Watchko (18th, Pittsburgh, 2002).

PRO PIPELINE CONTINUES

Three players from last year’s Georgia Tech team were signed to a contract by a major league baseball organization, and the Yellow Jackets had 38 alumni playing or working in professional baseball at various levels last season. The list of alumni includes 18 pitchers, 17 hitters, Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ Director of Played Personnel Cam Bonifay, Atlanta Braves bullpen coach Bobby Dews, and Minnesota Twins’ minor league hitting coach Riccardo Ingram.

YELLOW JACKETS IN THE BIGS

Georgia Tech set an all-time high in 2000 when ten of its alumni baseball players were on major league rosters during the season and then matched that high when 10 former Yellow Jackets played in the big leagues in 2002.

Pitcher Kevin Brown, a first-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers in 1986, pitched the 2001 season for the Los Angeles Dodgers after leading the San Diego Padres and Florida Marlins to the World Series in 1998 and 1997, respectively. All-America shortstop Nomar Garciaparra has become a popular figure in Boston for the Red Sox and is a two-time American League Batting Champion, while his Tech teammate and all-America catcher Jason Varitek has been Boston’s starting backstop in each of the last four seasons.

Outfielder Darren Bragg spent last season with the Atlanta Braves, while outfielder Jay Payton played with the New York Mets and the Colorado Rockies. Southpaw Doug Creek was traded from Tampa Bay to Seatte last season, and Kris Wilson joined the Kansas City Royals’ starting rotation midway through the 2001 season. Pitchers David Elder (Cleveland Indians), Cory Vance (Colorado Rockies) and outfielder Marlon Byrd (Philadelphia Phillies) all made their major league debuts last year.

4TH LONGEST NCAA STREAK ENDS, NEW ONE BEGINS

Georgia Tech’s streak of 14 straight years in the NCAA Tournament, which ended in the spring of 1999, was the fourth-longest for a Division I team at the time. Miami owned the longest streak, having been invited for 27 consecutive years, followed by Florida State at 22 and Oklahoma State at 19.

But after missing out on the NCAA Tournament in 1999 for the first time in 15 years, the Yellow Jackets bounced back in 2000 with a 50-win season and an ACC Championship to return to the NCAA Regionals and Super Regionals in 2000. Tech returned to the NCAA Tournament in 2001 and then advanced to the College World Series in 2002. Tech has earned a berth in the NCAA Regionals 17 times in the last 18 years.

Prior to the recent streak, Tech had participated in the NCAA playoffs twice, in 1959 and 1971, with an additional play-in tournament appearance in 1948. Georgia Tech made its first trip to the College World Series in 1994, advancing to the championship game before losing to Oklahoma, 13-5. In 19 NCAA playoffs, the Yellow Jackets have posted an overall 43-38 record.

Most NCAA Regional Appearances, Last 18 Years1.      Florida State   18        Miami   183.      GEORGIA TECH    17        Louisiana State 175.      Clemson 16        Oklahoma State  16        Stanford        16        Texas   16

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