Oct. 11, 2010
By Jon Cooper Sting Daily
Georgia Tech baseball is on the clock.
Actually it has been since 4:00 p.m. Monday afternoon when the first pitch was thrown at the annual White & Gold Series being played at Russ Chandler Stadium.
It’s part of a new rule, established by the NCAA, which goes into effect for the 2011 season that sets a time-limit for pitchers. Also on display this season are the NCAA’s newly regulated bats.
And you thought the only thing new and interesting surrounding the 2011 Georgia Tech Baseball Team was how it would replace last season’s top two starting pitchers, the entire outfield, its closer, its starting catcher, its first baseman, and its shortstop….
“I know a lot of people were wondering about that,” said junior shortstop Connor Winn, who appears to be the front-runner to start at shortstop, following Derek Dietrich. “Based on what we’ve seen this fall I think it’s been really great. The pitching’s been really strong, the hitting has come through when it’s needed to and the chemistry all around has been really amazing.”
That good chemistry will be split for at least four more days during the White & Gold Series, the annual split-squad game that concludes Fall Practice.
“Those games are always fun,” said Winn, who batted .294 (up 87 points from his freshman year), with two homers, two doubles and seven RBIs, with a .765 slugging percentage in limited duty last season. “It’s fun because we’ve been playing with each other all fall and now we sort of get into competition mode. It’s awesome for the younger guys to get a preview of what it’s like.”
That preview will include the new time clock. NCAA guidelines will allow a pitcher 90 seconds of warm-up time between innings during non-televised games (108 if game is televised, but that may go up) and only 20 between pitches when no runners are on base.
“As a hitter, it’s not so much [an issue] unless you’re leading off,” said Winn, who might be in that role. “We have been working on that all Fall. If you know that leading off the next inning you do have to rush. You don’t have time to just dilly dally, get a drink. You have to get out on the field, put your helmet on and start swinging.
“I think it would be worse for the pitchers,” he continued. “As a fielder, it’s not as bad. You’ll still get two or three warm-up throws.”
A bigger help for fielders and more of an issue to hitters should be the new bat restrictions. The new BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) measurements will limit the bounce of the ball off the bat, slowing the speed of the batted ball and reducing the flight and distance of the ball.
Winn, who is more of a contact hitter than slugger Dietrich, has already noticed the difference in the bats.
“They don’t have as much pop so the balls don’t go as far,” he said. “They have a smaller barrel so you have to put a better swing on the ball to hit it well. There have been a lot of balls that with last year’s bats would have gone out that this year got caught. So I think that will definitely play a big role in the strategy of the game. We’re going to have to work more base hits, balls on the ground instead of trying to hit home runs.”
That could be an issue for Georgia Tech, which led the ACC with 122 home runs, second in the nation and 16 more than the nearest team (Miami).
Ironically, Winn hit two homers Monday, including one leading off the game against freshman DeAndre Smelter.
As far as the Series, both sides are talking the talk.
White Team sophomore outfielder Brandon Thomas and Gold Team senior pitcher Taylor Wood made their bold — albeit hardly predictable — prognostications (to see them, visit ramblinwreck.cstv.com/sports/m-basebl/spec-rel/091010aaa.html). Gold won last year’s series.
Winn, who will don the White jersey, not surprisingly backed Thomas.
“I got a chance to check out both of the teams,” he said. “Looking at our team I thought all the guys on our team are fundamentally sound and they do the jobs that they need to do. So I’m confident that the White team will take it.”
That confidence that was, may have been shaken some following Gold’s 14-6 win on Monday in a game that was shortened to seven innings due to time and pitcher restrictions. Talented freshmen Mott Hyde and Daniel Palka each had four hits, with Palka adding four RBIs. Freshman centerfielder Kyle Wren added three hits and two RBIs for Gold.
The Series, which continues Wednesday (a 4:00 p.m. start) and concludes on Friday (time TBA), is free and open to the public.