ATLANTA — The top-ranked Georgia Tech baseball team, coming off its first Atlantic Coast Conference Championship in 12 years, makes its 15th NCAA Regional appearance in the last 16 years this weekend at Russ Chandler Stadium. The Yellow Jackets are ranked No. 1 nationally by both Collegiate Baseball and Baseball America this week.
Georgia Tech’s record currently stands at 47-14 after the Yellow Jackets swept through the ACC Tournament with a perfect 5-0 record last week in Fort Mill, S.C. Tech, who finished first in the ACC regular season with an 18-6 record, became the first school to win both the regular season and tournament championship in the same year since Clemson accomplished the feat in 1994.
The ACC Championship was Tech’s fifth overall since joining the league for the 1981 season, but it was just the first since winning four consecutive titles from 1985 through 1988.
“I’m excited for our team, administration and fans with the opportunity to play a NCAA regional at home,” said head coach Danny Hall. “We realize, though, that the teams coming in here are all very good, and we will certainly have a lot of local flavor with Georgia Southern and Auburn playing in this tournament.
“It says a lot about our players and coaches that we were able to get to this point after not making the tournament last year. I’m excited that we now have a great chance to make this a special year.
“It gives us a lot of confidence knowing that we were the best team in the ACC over the long haul by winning the regular season and then that we were the best team for five days by winning the tournament. We know that we can play top-20 calibre teams and that we have the ability to come out on top.”
After opening the season with a 9-6 record in their first 15 games, the Yellow Jackets have won 38 of their last 46 games entering this week’s NCAA action.
Georgia Tech, seeded third nationally in the NCAA’s bracket of 64 teams, will host Georgia Southern, Stetson and Auburn this weekend at Russ Chandler Stadium. The winner of the regional will advance to one of eight Super Regionals that will take place on school campuses across the country on June 2-4. The eight Super Regional winners will move on to the College World Series on June 9-17 in Omaha, Neb.
Tech’s rotation is still undetermined for this weekend’s regional, but Friday’s starter will come from one of the Jackets’ three weekend starters.
Sophomore righty Steve Kelly (Fairfield, Ohio), 7-2, 4.29 ERA, who was a mainstay in the weekend rotation throughout the season, picked up a win over Duke in Tech’s opening game of the ACC Tournament last week.
Junior southpaw and staff ace Cory Vance (Vandalia, Ohio), 12-2, 3.34, will start Tech’s second game in the regional. The Jackets’ leader in victories, innings pitched (105), strikeouts (108) and complete games (5), Vance tossed a complete-game victory over Wake Forest in the second round of the ACC Tournament.
Sophomore right-hander Rhett Parrott (Dalton, Ga.), 7-2, 4.01, who has owns a 5-0 record in his last eight starts, is also a candidate for an opening night starting assignment.
Freshmen Jeff Watchko (Roswell, Ga.), 4-1, 2.73, 4 saves, and Philip Perry (Marietta, Ga.), 4-0, 2.98, 1 SV, sophomore Kevin Cameron (Joliet, Ill.), 5-2, 4.41, 1 SV, junior Andy Mitchell (Conyers, Ga.), 4-0, 4.46, 5 SV, and senior Ben Sheeter (Lilburn, Ga.), 3-4, 6.13, have been the main workhorses out of the bullpen this season.
Tech’s bullpen was especially impressive last week at the ACC Tournament where Yellow Jacket relievers combined for a 2-0 record, one save and a 0.96 ERA in 9.1 innings out of the pen.
Georgia Tech leads the ACC with a .340 team batting average, 18 points better than second place North Carolina, and the Jackets boast three of the ACC’s top four hitters. The Yellow Jackets have more hits (759) and have scored more runs (548) than any other team in the league.
Sophomore third baseman Mark Teixeira (Severna Park, Md.), .420, 16 HR, 73 RBI, leads the ACC in batting, runs scored (100) and home runs (16), while junior left fielder Jason Basil (West Chester, Ohio), .399, 13, 76, and sophomore second baseman Richard Lewis (Marietta, Ga.), .398, 4, 49, rank third and fourth, respectively, in the ACC batting race.
A pair of juniors in catcher Bryan Prince (Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.), .380, 8, 70, and right fielder Brad Stockton (Marietta, Ga.), .343, 6, 32, round out the rest of the middle of the order. Both earned ACC All-Tournament honors last week, joining Basil and Vance on that team.
Sophomore Victor Menocal (Gainesville, Ga.), .316, 3, 33, is the everyday starter at shortstop while sophomore Wes Rynders (Marietta, Ga.), .269, 1, 29, is the regular in center field.
Freshmen Tyler Parker (Marietta, Ga.), .249, 10, 38, and Jason Perry (Jonesboro, Ga.), .268, 3, 9 split time at first base. Junior Derik Goffena (Sidney, Ohio), .299, 4, 54, who can also play first base, is the team’s primary designated hitter.
TECH IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
Georgia Tech is playing in an NCAA Regional for the 15th time in the last 16 years. Tech had been to 14 straight regionals from 1985 through 1998 before being left out of the field of 64 last season.
Georgia Tech made its first and only trip to the College World Series in 1994, advancing to the championship game before losing to Oklahoma, 13-5. In 16 NCAA playoffs, the Yellow Jackets have posted an overall 34-32 record. Tech’s NCAA Tournament record under Danny Hall is 15-10, including a 12-9 record in regional tournaments.
The Yellow Jackets have earned a national top-eight No. 1 seed five times, including this season, and four times in the past seven seasons. Tech was last a No. 1 seed in 1998 in Starkville, Miss., when the Jackets won their first two games before losing twice to end the season.
Tech is making its third NCAA Regional appearance at Russ Chandler Stadium. The facility also served as a regional host in 1987 and 1993, and the Jackets own a 2-4 record in NCAA play on their home field.
BASIL NAMED ACC TOURNAMENT MVP
Georgia Tech left fielder Jason Basil as been the hottest hitter in the Tech lineup over the last two weeks. He was recently named the ACC Tournament’s Most Valuable Player after batting .684 with three home runs and 10 RBI in five games. He set a tournament record with 26 total bases and became the first player in tournament history to bat for the cycle with his 4-for-4 performance against Duke in the first round.
For the season, Basil is batting .399 with 12 homers and an ACC-leading 76 RBI. He has hit safely in 17 of the last 19 games, batting .573 with eight home runs and 38 RBI in that stretch.
HALL TOPS 300 AT GEORGIA TECH
Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall, who picked up his 500th career victory during the final week of the regular season, earned his 300th victory at Georgia Tech in the Yellow Jackets’ 8-4 win over Clemson in the ACC Championship game.
Now in his 13th year as a head coach at the Division I level, Hall’s career record stands at 508-251 (.669 winning percentage). He is now in his seventh season at Georgia Tech, where his record is 300-134 (.691). The 1997 ACC and National Coach of the Year, Hall’s Tech teams have averaged 42 wins per year, including a 50-win season and a College World Series appearance in 1994.
VANCE NEARLY PERFECT IN ATLANTA
Junior Cory Vance will get a chance to make another start in the friendly confines of Russ Chandler Stadium this weekend in the NCAA Atlanta Regional. Vance tossed a seven strong innings over No. 7 Clemson in his final start of the regular season at home, and that victory improved the southpaw’s career record on his home field to 18-1. The southpaw’s lone loss at Russ Chandler Stadium came at the hands of North Carolina during his freshman year, and he has since won 16 straight games in Atlanta. Vance is projected as an early-round draft pick for the upcoming 2000 Major League Baseball amateur draft.