ATLANTA (May 1) — The fourth-ranked Georgia Tech baseball team takes a brief break from action this week for spring semester final exams before traveling to No. 12 Miami for a key three-game non-conference series.
Tech (37-11, 16-5 ACC) maintained its first place standing in the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season standings after winning two of three games over Clemson last weekend. Florida State (13-5 ACC), Clemson (12-6) and Wake Forest (13-8) are still mathematically alive for a first-place finish, but the Yellow Jackets hold their fate in their own hands.
But before they turn their attention to the conclusion of the ACC race, the Jackets will battle the Hurricanes in a matchup of two of the nation’s top teams at Miami’s Mark Light Stadium. The games, scheduled for Saturday, Sunday and Monday, will begin at 7 p.m. each night and will be televised live on Fox Sports Net South in the Atlanta area and on Fox Sports Net Florida in Miami markets.
“We are playing a great team in Miami, which has won 15 straight series at home,” said Tech head coach Danny Hall. “They are playing well right now and they have got some people back in the lineup who were hurt earlier during the season. We will have our hands full down there, but we will also be able to find out what kind of team we have.”
Because Tech is now on the semester school calendar in 1999-2000 after years of using the quarter system, final exam week now falls during the middle of the season. Hall and his staff will adjust their approach this week prior to the Miami series.
“We’re going to have to do some things midweek to keep our pitchers sharp,” said Hall. “We’ll play a little intrasquad to keep them on track and also help our hitters stay sharp. It also give us a chance to rest a little bit for a big stretch run. But the most important thing is that our guys do a good job with their school work this week and finish up strong.”
Georgia Tech’s starting rotation for the series at Miami will remain the same, with junior southpaw Cory Vance (Vandalia, Ohio), 9-2, 3.00 getting the call in Saturday night’s opener. The Yellow Jackets’ leader in victories, innings pitched (78) and strikeouts (93), Vance has picked up wins in seven of his last eight starts.
For Sunday’s and Monday’s contests, Hall will turn to a pair of righty sophomores in Rhett Parrott (Dalton, Ga.), 6-2, 3.40, and Steve Kelly (Fairfield, Ohio), 6-2, 4.52. Both Parrott and Kelly have been in the rotation in Georgia Tech’s last five weekend series, and both had been very effective prior to struggling against Clemson last weekend. Nevertheless, Parrott is 3-0 with a 1.25 ERA in his last three starts while Kelly owns a 5-1 in his last seven starting assignments.
Key to Tech’s recent success where the Jackets have won 19 of their last 22 games has been solid top-to-bottom performances by the pitching staff. While Vance, Parrott, Kelly and senior Ben Sheeter (Lilburn, Ga.), 3-3, 5.43, have solidified the starting rotation, freshmen Jeff Watchko (Roswell, Ga.), 3-0, 2.38, and Philip Perry (Marietta, Ga.), 2-0, 3.62, sophomore Kevin Cameron (Joliet, Ill.), 4-1, 3.80, and junior Andy Mitchell (Conyers, Ga.), 3-0, 4.94, have all provided consistent results out of the bullpen. In all, the bullpen is 9-3 with 11 saves this season.
At the plate, the Jackets’ lineup continues to be anchored by third baseman Mark Teixeira (Severna Park, Md.), .438, 13 HR, 57 RBI, and leadoff hitter and second baseman Richard Lewis (Marietta, Ga.), .434, 4 HR, 45 RBI. Teixeira and Lewis rank first and second in the ACC batting race, and both players are among the national leaders in batting as well.
Sophomore Victor Menocal (Gainesville, Ga.), .332, 2 HR, 26 RBI, is the everyday starter at shortstop, and he has seen his average climb above the .300 mark by hitting safely in 19 of the last 21 games and batting .411 in that stretch.
Junior Bryan Prince (Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.), .376, 6 HR, 55 RBI, who sees the majority of the time behind the plate, has been one of Tech’s hotter hitters of late. Prince is batting .439 with 23 RBI in the last 14 games.
Junior Derik Goffena (Sidney, Ohio), .319, 1 HR, 41 RBI, and freshman Tyler Parker (Marietta, Ga.), .243, 10 HR, 37 RBI, have split time at first base and at the designated hitter position, while freshman Jason Perry (Jonesboro, Ga.), .235-2-7, has also entered into the mix at those two positions after coming back from a broken hand. Perry hit his first two home runs of the season on Sunday against Clemson.
The Tech outfield consists of juniors Jason Basil (West Chester, Ohio), .346, 6 HR, 47 RBI, and Brad Stockton (Marietta, Ga.), .303, 3 HR, 20 RBI, in left and right field respectively, while sophomore Wes Rynders (Marietta, Ga.), .270, 1 HR, 26 RBI, is the everyday center fielder.
The mark of this Georgia Tech team has been the emergence of a different player on different days.
“If you are going to be a good team, then you cannot depend on the same guy to get the job done day in and day out,” said Hall. “We’ve had different guys rise to the occasion this season. Just last week, Ben Sheeter pitched a great game against Georgia, on Saturday it was Wes Rynders, Kevin Cameron and Andy Mitchell, and on Sunday we saw Jason Perry break out. You need that and that’s why you have a full roster to give different guys an opportunity to play.”
SERIES VS. MIAMI
Georgia Tech and Miami have met on 41 previous occasions on the baseball diamond, and the Hurricanes hold a 28-11-2 lead in the all-time series that began in 1958. Miami, of course, is coached by former Tech skipper Jim Morris, the Yellow Jackets’ all-time leader with 504 victories on the Flats.
This weekend’s series will be the third time in the last four years that the Hurricanes and Jackets have locked up. In 1997, Miami swept a three-game series from Georgia Tech in Coral Gables, and in 1998 in Atlanta, Tech won the first game 22-7, before falling to the ‘Canes 8-5 and 9-8 in games two and three. Miami won 10 of 12 meetings with Georgia Tech in the decade of the 1990’s, and the Jackets are just 3-17-2 all-time at the Hurricanes’ Mark Light Stadium.
VANCE NEARLY PERFECT IN ATLANTA
In what may have been his final regular season start at Tech’s Russ Chandler Stadium, junior Cory Vance tossed seven strong innings to pick up a win over No. 7 Clemson on Friday night. The victory improved the southpaw’s career record on his home field to 18-1, with the lone loss coming to North Carolina during his freshman year. Vance, who is not scheduled to make another start during the regular season at Chandler Stadium, is projected as an early-round draft pick for the upcoming 2000 Major League Baseball amateur draft.
HALL APPROACHES 500
Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall enters this weekend’s series at Miami just two wins shy of 500 for his career. Now in his 13th year as a head coach at the Division I level, Hall’s overall career record stands at 498-248 (.668 winning percentage). He is now in his seventh season at Georgia Tech, where his record is 290-131 (.689). The 1997 ACC and National Coach of the Year, Hall’s Georgia Tech teams have averaged 42 wins per year, including a 50-win season and a College World Series appearance in 1994.