By KEITH PARSONS
AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia Tech freshman Micah Owings pitches like a can’t-miss prospect, throwing his 92 mph fastball with pinpoint control and buckling hitters’ knees with a wicked changeup.
But that’s not all he does. At the plate, he has what coach Danny Hall calls “incredible power,” good enough to lead the Yellow Jackets with 14 home runs, including three hit when he’s been the starting pitcher.
He’s one reason Georgia Tech likely will be making its fourth straight trip to the NCAA tournament.
“The kid’s got it all,” catcher Mike Nickeas said.
Hall took it even further.
“There’s nothing bad you can say about Micah Owings,” he said.
That Owings ended up playing for Hall at Georgia Tech is a bit surprising. Selected in the second round of last year’s draft by the Colorado Rockies, Owings spurned a sizable signing bonus to attend college.
He and fellow freshman Tyler Greene are the first second-round picks ever to come to Georgia Tech.
“I was a little surprised Micah came to school,” Hall admitted. “But we’re certainly glad he did.”
For his part, Owings said the decision had little to do with money. His father, Jim, also went to Georgia Tech, where he lettered for three years in football and track in the 1970s.
Plus, Micah’s younger brother, John Mark, is a junior in high school, and the duo would relish the opportunity to play together again, possibly for the Yellow Jackets.
“My family and I prayed about it really hard. Our faith is important to us,” Micah Owings said. “I just felt like this is where God wanted me to be.”
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Owings is finishing his first season strong. He started the opener of a key, season-ending series against North Carolina State on Thursday night, improving his record to 8-2 by pitching four-hit ball over six innings. He gave up one run, walked one and struck out five.
His ERA fell to 3.81, and he helped the Yellow Jackets stretch their advantage over the Wolfpack in the chase for second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
After he was lifted in favor of reliever Jeff Watchko, Owings stayed in the game as the designated hitter, as he often does. He finished 0-for-2 with a walk, lowering his batting average to .306.
Entering the final two games of the regular season, he had 38 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .613, best on the team, all while getting most of his at-bats from the bottom half of the lineup.
“We’ve got good hitters above him, and he gives us some nice pop in the middle of the lineup,” Hall said.
Owings is used to dominating at the plate and on the mound. As a senior at Gainesville High School in suburban Atlanta, he hit a state-record 25 homers in 105 at-bats and went 12-1 with a 1.03 ERA to lead the team to a second straight state championship.
He had 121 strikeouts and only three walks in 75 innings.
“I love both pitching and hitting,” Owings said. “They both have their own challenges. I’m not sure which one I like better.”
The Rockies envisioned him as a pitcher, and Hall said most other teams agree with that assessment.
“But he’s got incredible power, which you don’t see every day,” Hall said. “Somebody out there might try to make a hitter out of him.”
Owings probably will get a chance to find out a bit sooner than most college players. Because he was home-schooled during his elementary years, he’s a year older than most of his classmates. He turns 21 in September, making him eligible for the 2004 draft, after his sophomore season.
Most players aren’t eligible until after their junior years.
“I’ll just see what happens,” Owings said. “Right now, I’m just having fun at Georgia Tech, trying to help us get back to the College World Series.”
That humble attitude has endeared Owings to his teammates.
“He fits right in,” Nickeas said. “At the beginning of the year, we shaved all the freshmen’s heads, and he was really into it. He was real cool about it.”