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Baseball Opens 2002 Season at Georgia Southern

Feb. 8, 2002

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ATLANTA — Georgia Tech, the nation’s 13th-ranked team according to Baseball America, opens its 105th season of baseball this weekend with a two-game series at Georgia Southern. The Yellow Jackets will lift the lid off the 2002 season on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at J.I. Clements Stadium, and the two teams will square off in the second game of the series on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Tech opens the 2002 season with 17 new players on its roster in addition to three new assistant coaches. Gone is the majority of the core of players – including Mark Teixeira, Richard Lewis, Jason Basil, Bryan Prince, Steve Kelly and Rhett Parrott – that helped the Yellow Jackets capture the 2000 Atlantic Coast Conference championship and advance to three NCAA Regionals in the last four years. Tech returns 13 letterwinners from last year’s team that went 41-20, including eight position players and five pitchers. The Yellow Jackets have just three seniors on the roster – shortstop Victor Menocal, third baseman Matthew Boggs and outfielder Wes Rynders.


Georgia Tech leads Georgia Southern, 58-20, in a series that dates to 1947, and the Yellow Jackets have won 13 straight games in the series. Tech swept all four meetings with Georgia Southern last season, outscoring the Eagles 50-15 in those games. Tech is 26-8 against Georgia Southern under Danny Hall.

Tech is 23-10 in games played at J.I. Clements Stadium and the Yellow Jackets have won 10 straight games played on Georgia Southern’s home field.

The Yellow Jackets are opening the season in Statesboro for the second time in the last three years, while Tech and Georgia Southern are playing a February series in Statesboro for the 16th consecutive season.


Sophomore left hander Kyle Bakker (4-1, 2.78 ERA in 2001) will start the season opener on Saturday afternoon at Georgia Southern. Bakker was Tech’s No. 3 starter for much of the stretch run of the 2001 season before being sidelined with stiffness in his left arm for all of the Yellow Jackets’ postseason games. The big southpaw, who is the tallest player in the ACC at 6-9, began his rookie season in the bullpen where he was Tech’s top left-handed setup man. He moved into the starting rotation in mid-April and immediately went 4-0 in his first four starts against teams that all advanced to the NCAA Regionals (Georgia Southern, Auburn, Clemson and Florida State). In five career starts, Bakker is 4-0 with a 2.53 ERA in 32.0 IP. He earned his first career victory last season against Georgia Southern in Atlanta, when he allowed four runs in six innings and struck out 11 batters in his first career start.

Junior righty Jeff Watchko (1-3, 3.31 ERA, 6 saves in 2001) will start on Sunday afternoon in the second game of the series. Watchko spent the last two seasons as Tech’s closer, compiling 12 saves and a 3.35 ERA in that capacity, before moving into a starting role this spring. He has started two games in his career, both coming as a freshman in 2000, and went 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA against Eastern Kentucky and Mercer while racking up 15 K’s and just two walks in 12 innings. Career vs. Georgia Southern: 5 games, 0-0, 3 saves, 5.14 ERA, 7 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 7 K.


The Atlantic Coast Conference’s nine head coaches selected Georgia Tech in fourth place in the conference in 2002. Tech tallied 56 points in the poll, just one point shy of third-place Wake Forest.

2002 ACC Pre-season Coaches Poll1.      Clemson (5)         772.      Florida State (4)           743.      Wake Forest              574.      GEORGIA TECH    565.      North Carolina        456.      NC State                       337.      Duke                       298.      Virginia                      249.      Maryland                     9


Three Yellow Jackets were named to pre-season All-America teams by various baseball publications prior to the start of the 2002 season. Junior catcher Tyler Parker was selected as a first-team pre-season All-America by both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. Senior shortstop Victor Menocal was a second-team pick by Collegiate Baseball, while sophomore outfielder Matt Murton was a third-team selection by Baseball America.


The Yellow Jackets have 17 freshmen on the 2002 roster, the largest concentration of rookies on one team in school history. The previous high was 15, which occurred in 1982 (Jim Morris’ first season as head coach) and 1998 (which included last year’s senior class).


Tech’s rookie class for this season, which numbers 17 freshmen, was ranked as the ninth best recruiting class in the nation by Baseball America. Tech’s recruiting classes have been ranked among the top 16 in the country in each of the last six years, including the 1998 class featuring Mark Teixeira that was ranked No. 1 in the country.

Under the direction of recruiting coordinator Scott Stricklin, Tech signed 10 players in the early signing period last fall (see list on p. 3), including three players ranked among the nation’s top 25 high school prospects. Many major baseball publications feel that this class will once again rank in the top 15 in the nation.


In addition to 17 new players on this year’s team, Georgia Tech welcomes three new assistant coaches to the program this season. Bobby Moranda joins the Tech staff as Associate Head Coach and Pitching Coach after spending the last six years at Wake Forest and helping the Demon Deacons win three ACC titles in the last four years. Moranda, who also worked at Virginia, is a 12-year veteran of the ACC.

Scott Stricklin joins the staff as Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator after spending the last two seasons at Vanderbilt. Stricklin, who played for head coach Danny Hall at Kent State, was previously on Tech’s from 1998-99 as a volunteer coach.

Former Wake Forest All-America first baseman Jon Palmieri is in his first season at Georgia Tech as a volunteer coach.


Following the successful 2001 season, several Yellow Jackets made a name for themselves during the summer months. Sophomore outfielder Matt Murton was named the MVP of the prestigious Cape Cod League, leading the league in RBI while batting .324 and going a perfect 19-for-19 in stolen base attempts. Murton was recognized as the No. 3 prospect in the Cape last summer.

Junior first baseman Jason Perry was tabbed as the No. 11 prospect in the Cape last summer after leading the league in home runs, extra base hits and slugging percentage. Senior shortstop Victor Menocal was named the No. 10 prospect in the Great Lakes league last summer.


Russ Chandler Stadium, the home of the Yellow Jackets for the last 16 seasons and affectionately known as the “Rusty C,” has a completely new look this season. A new era in the stadium’s history begins this spring as the old facility was demolished to make way for a state-of-the-art, $7 million, 4,354 seat stadium in the exact same location. The architectural firm of HOK – who designed Camden Yards, Jacobs Field, and Pacific Bell Park, among others – designed the new Russ Chandler Stadium and construction on this new facility was completed in less than eight months.


With only five pitchers returning from last year’s team, head coach Danny Hall has turned to two other veterans to help bolster the pitching staff in 2002. Two shortstops – senior Victor Menocal and junior Chris Goodman – worked off the mound during the fall and both showed that they have the skills to help in the pitching department. Menocal and Goodman will both be used in short relief work this spring.


Several familiar Tech faces will be at some unfamiliar places this spring. Senior Matthew Boggs, who has split time between second base and the outfield in his Tech career, will open up the 2002 season at third base. He has not played that position since arriving on the Tech campus in 1998. Junior Jason Perry, Tech’s everyday first baseman for the last year and a half, will get plenty of action in right field this spring in addition to his first base work. Perry, however, did play some outfield as a freshman in 2000. Senior Victor Menocal, who spent much of the 2001 season at third base replacing the injured Mark Teixeira, moves back to his natural position of shortstop this spring.


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