ATLANTA (Apr. 10) — Midway through the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season schedule, the Georgia Tech baseball squad will look to extend its current eight-game winning streak this week with five games in a six-day period.
Tech (26-8, 10-2 ACC) is coming off a three-game series sweep at Maryland last weekend, which solidified the Jackets first place standing in the ACC regular season race ahead of Florida State (9-3) and Wake Forest (11-4). Georgia Tech has completed three game sweeps in three of four ACC series this season.
This week’s schedule includes a Tuesday night game at Mercer at 7 p.m., and then the opening of a six-game homestand on Wednesday versus The Citadel at 4 p.m. Tech will host Virginia in a weekend conference series against Virginia on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
“This is going to be another tough week and we have five more important games to play,” said Tech head coach Danny Hall. “We’ve got a tough place to go play at Mercer, a very good team in The Citadel coming in on Wednesday, and then the key ACC series against Virginia on the weekend.
“I’m very pleased with where our team is right now, and we are in great shape in the league. But this is a big series coming at us, and I think that if we can play well against Virginia then we are really set up well for the remainder of the season.”
For the two midweek non-conference games, Hall will turn to freshman right-hander Jeff Watchko (Roswell, Ga.) on Tuesday at Mercer and to senior southpaw Ben Sheeter (Lilburn, Ga.). Watchko has been very effective in a relief role this season, and he will make only his second start of the season against the Bears. Sheeter has been in and out of the weekend rotation and has pitched effectively despite what his 0-2 record might indicate.
In the weekend series against the Cavaliers, junior southpaw Cory Vance (Vandalia, Ohio) will get the starting nod in Friday night’s opener. Vance picked up his seventh win of the season last Friday afternoon at Maryland, throwing his second straight complete-game in Tech’s 8-3 victory. Vance currently stands at 4-0 in league play, and has allowed one run or less in five of his eight starts in 2000.
For Saturday’s and Sunday’s contests, Hall will turn to a pair of righty sophomores in Rhett Parrott (Dalton, Ga.) and Steve Kelly (Fairfield, Ohio). Both Parrott and Kelly have been in the weekend rotation in Tech’s last two ACC series at NC State and Maryland. Parrott allowed just one unearned run in a seven-inning stint on Saturday, while Kelly tossed six effective innings in the Jackets’ 10-3 win on Sunday.
Key to Tech’s current eight-game winning streak has been solid starting pitching. The Jackets have won 17 of their last 19 games, and dating back to March 3, the Georgia Tech pitching staff has only allowed more than five earned runs just once in 22 games. Over that span, the team ERA has fallen from 4.89 to 3.76.
“Our pitchers all threw very well at Maryland,” said Hall. “My biggest concern was the week off between the NC State seres and last weekend at Maryland, but I was also worried about a letdown after our big weekend at NC State. But I give our guys credit. They took matters into their own hands and got the job done.”
At the plate, the Jackets’ lineup continues to be anchored by leadoff hitter Richard Lewis (Marietta, Ga.), .474, 3 HR, 32 RBI, and third baseman Mark Teixeira (Severna Park, Md.), .444, 9 HR, 38 RBI. Lewis, who owns a 24-game hitting streak, currently leads the ACC in batting. Teixeira is currently riding an 12-game hitting streak of his own in which he is batting .560 (28-for-50).
Sophomore Victor Menocal (Gainesville, Ga.), .313, 2 HR, 18 RBI, is the everyday starter at shortstop, and he has seen his average climb above the .300 mark over the last two weeks while hitting .444 in the last eight games.
Junior Derik Goffena (Sidney, Ohio), .315, 1 HR, 29 RBI, has taken over as the primary first baseman, with junior Bryan Prince (Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.), .348, 4 HR, 32 RBI, seeing the majority of the time behind the plate. Freshman Tyler Parker (Marietta, Ga.), .279, 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), .310, 4 HR, 28 RBI, and Brad Stockton (Marietta, Ga.), .275, 2 HR, 16 RBI, in left and right field respectively, while sophomore Wes Rynders (Marietta, Ga.), .254, 18 RBI, is the everyday center fielder.
“It’s been a great team effort over the last few weeks,” said Hall. “The hitting streak that Richard Lewis has going is outstanding. He really sets the table for us to get on base and have some people knock him in. We have a lot of different guys contributing to drive in runs, and that is great to see.”
SERIES VS. MERCER, THE CITADEL & VIRGINIA
Georgia Tech and Mercer will meet for the 140th time on Tuesday night in Macon, and the Yellow Jackets lead the all-time series 89-50. Macon has been tough on Tech in recent years, however, as the Jackets dropped games there in both 1994 and 1995 and winning by four runs or less in each of the last four meetings. Overall, Tech owns a 36-26 record on Mercer’s home field.
Wednesday’s game will mark the first meeting between Georgia Tech and The Citadel on the baseball diamond.
The Yellow Jackets lead the series with Virginia, 46-25-1, including a 26-8-1 mark in Atlanta. Last year Tech dropped two of three games to the Cavaliers in Charlottesville, including a 7-6, 14-inning loss in the series opener. However, Georgia Tech has won 15 in a row over Virginia in Atlanta, with the Cavaliers last winning at Russ Chandler Stadium in 1988.
LEWIS EXTENDS STREAK TO 24 GAMES
Sophomore second baseman Richard Lewis hit safely in all three games at Maryland last weekend, extending his current hitting streak to 24 games. The ACC’s leading hitter with a .474 average, Lewis has recorded at least one hit in 33 of 34 games this season. The Georgia Tech record for longest hitting streak is 28 games, set by Carlton Fleming in 1990. Lewis is currently tied with Riccardo Ingram for the third-longest streak in school history, trailing only Fleming and Jay Payton (who had a 27 game streak in 1993).
TECH ADDS TWO HOME GAMES TO SCHEDULE
Making up for the two games that were washed out in California in early March, the Jackets have added a pair of home games to their 2000 schedule. In addition to Tuesday afternoon’s contest with The Citadel, Georgia Tech will host East Tennessee State on May 3 at 7 p.m. in a game that will be broadcast on WREK-FM (91.1).