ATLANTA (April 17) – Riding a season-long 13-game winning streak, the 6th-ranked Georgia Tech baseball team will look to continue that streak this week with five more games on the schedule.
Tech (31-8, 13-2 ACC) is coming off a three-game series sweep of Virginia last weekend, which solidified the Jackets’ first place standing in the ACC regular season race ahead of Florida State (9-3), Clemson (8-4) and Wake Forest (12-6). Georgia Tech has completed three game sweeps in four of five ACC series this season, but has yet to play the Seminoles, Tigers or Demon Deacons.
This week’s schedule includes a two-game series with in-state rival Georgia Southern at Russ Chandler Stadium on Tuesday at 7 p.m. and Wednesday at 4 p.m. Tech will travel to Tallahassee for a weekend ACC series against 2nd-ranked Florida State on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and on Sunday at 2 p.m.
This weekend’s set at Florida State begins a critical four-week stretch that includes weekend series with Clemson in Atlanta and Miami and Wake Forest on the road.
“I’m very pleased with the way that we have finished things before we really get serious in the next few weeks,” said Tech head coach Danny Hall. “This will be another big week for us. Georgia Southern comes in here very hot after sweeping The Citadel, so that will be two tough games. And I’m sure that Florida State will be ready for us this weekend and it should make for a great series.”
For the two midweek games with Georgia Southern, Hall will turn to senior southpaw Ben Sheeter (Lilburn, Ga.), 1-2, 5.68 ERA, on Tuesday and freshman right-hander Jeff Watchko (Roswell, Ga.), 3-0, 2.61, on Wednesday. Sheeter finally picked up his first win of the season with a strong showing last week against The Citadel, while Watchko has been very effective in a relief and spot starter’s role this season.
In the weekend series against the Seminoles, junior southpaw Cory Vance (Vandalia, Ohio), 8-1, 2.44, will get the starting nod in Friday night’s opener. Vance picked up his eighth win of the season last Friday against Virginia, and he currently stands at 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA in five starts against ACC competition.
For Saturday’s and Sunday’s contests, Hall will turn to a pair of righty sophomores in Rhett Parrott (Dalton, Ga.), 5-2, 3.64, and Steve Kelly (Fairfield, Ohio), 6-1, 4.12. Both Parrott and Kelly have been in the weekend rotation in Tech’s last three ACC series against NC State, Maryland and Virginia. Parrott has allowed just one earned run in his last two starts (0.69 ERA), while Kelly tossed six shutout innings in the Jackets’ 12-6 win on Sunday afternoon.
Key to Tech’s current 13-game winning streak has been solid starting pitching. The Jackets have won 22 of their last 24 games, and dating back to March 3, the Georgia Tech pitching staff has only allowed more than five earned runs just twice in 27 games. Over that span, the team ERA has fallen from 4.89 to 3.70.
“Our starters have all thrown very well and I thought our midweek guys pitched pretty good last week,” said Hall. “Our pitching staff has come together, and we’re going to need them to continue to throw well down the stretch to give us a chance. I know that were are going to face better pitching with some of the clubs that we have yet to play, so it’s critical that we’re pitching it good and playing good defense as well.”
At the plate, the Jackets’ lineup continues to be anchored by leadoff hitter Richard Lewis (Marietta, Ga.), .484, 3 HR, 39 RBI, and third baseman Mark Teixeira (Severna Park, Md.), .463, 13 HR, 49 RBI. Lewis, who had a 27-game hitting streak come to an end last weekend, leads the ACC and ranks second in the nation in batting. Teixeira is currently riding a 17-game hitting streak of his own in which he is batting .578 with seven home runs and 23 RBI.
Sophomore Victor Menocal (Gainesville, Ga.), .327, 2 HR, 21 RBI, is the everyday starter at shortstop, and he has seen his average climb above the .300 mark with a 13-game hitting streak of his own.
Junior Derik Goffena (Sidney, Ohio), .315, 1 HR, 33 RBI, who has taken over as the primary first baseman, and junior Bryan Prince (Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.), .382, 5 HR, 44 RBI, who sees the majority of the time behind the plate, have been two of Tech’s hotter hitters of late. Goffena has hit safely in each of the last 16 games, while Prince hit .600 (12-for-20) with 12 RBI in five games last week. Freshman Tyler Parker (Marietta, Ga.), .246, 8 HR, 31 RBI, has seen time both at first base and as a catcher, while handling designated hitter duties on days not playing the field.
The Tech outfield consists of juniors Jason Basil (West Chester, Ohio), .313, 5 HR, 38 RBI, and Brad Stockton (Marietta, Ga.), .303, 3 HR, 18 RBI, in left and right field respectively, while sophomore Wes Rynders (Marietta, Ga.), .248, 20 RBI, is the everyday center fielder.
“Mark Teixeira and Richard Lewis have certainly been hot, but we’ve had a lot of different guys step up,” said Hall. “Bryan Prince had a great weekend. Victor Menocal has swung the bat good and Brad Stockton has gotten some big hits for us. But I think we’re having different guys contribute offensively and that’s good to see. You need that to have a good team offense.”
SERIES VS. GEORGIA SOUTHERN, FLORIDA ST.
Longtime rivals Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern will meet for the third and fourth times this season and for the 72nd and 73rd time overall this week. The Jackets own a 51-20 record against the Eagles in a series that dates back to 1947. Tech has won six in a row over Georgia Southern after taking a pair of contests in Statesboro by scores of 15-3 and 7-6 to open the 2000 season. The Yellow Jackets have won 29 of 39 games between the schools played in Atlanta.
Georgia Tech and Florida State have met on 63 previous occasions, with the Seminoles holding a 45-18 lead in the series. FSU won three of four meetings with the Jackets last season, winning two of three in Atlanta and then taking a 7-3 decision in the ACC Tournament. Tech has experienced mixed fortunes in Tallahassee as the Jackets swept a three-game series on the Seminoles’ home field in 1994, but have dropped five of six meetings at Dick Howser Stadium since then.
LEWIS’ STREAK SNAPPED AT 27 GAMES
Sophomore second baseman Richard Lewis hit safely in the first three games last week before being held hitless for only the second time this season last Saturday against Virginia. His 0-for-3 performance snapped a career-long 27-game hitting streak just one game shy of the Georgia Tech record of 28 games. Lewis bounced back with a 2-for-4 effort on Sunday afternoon, and the Marietta, Ga., native did maintain his streak of reaching base safely in every game of the 2000 season. Lewis currently leads the ACC and ranks second nationally with a .484 batting average.
VANCE REMAINS PERFECT VS. THE ACC
With his victory over Virginia on Friday night, junior southpaw Cory Vance improved his record to 5-0 in five starts against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents. In league games only, the Vandalia, Ohio, native owns a 1.98 ERA and two complete games while recording 46 strikeouts in 41 innings and holding opponents to a .170 batting average. For the season, Vance stands at 8-1 with a 2.44 ERA.