ATLANTA (Mar. 6) – Looking to regroup from a three-game losing streak and a rainy weekend in southern California, Georgia Tech’s baseball team returns home this week to take on Connecticut for a weekend series at Russ Chandler Stadium.
Game times for the series are 7 p.m. Friday, 1:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. Saturday’s and Sunday’s games will be broadcast on WREK-FM (91.1).
The Jackets (8-5) were the victims of torrential rains in the Los Angeles area over the weekend which caused the cancellation of games against No. 4 Cal State Fullerton and No. 22 Mississippi State in the Kia Baseball Bash. Tech will take the middle of the week off during spring break before returning to action on Friday night.
The break comes at a point in the season which has seen Danny Hall’s squad playing far from its best baseball. Tech dropped a pair of games to Georgia last week before falling to No. 7 USC on Friday afternoon.
“USC has an outstanding team,” said Hall. “Their starting pitcher is one of the best in the nation, and I was encouraged that we played better against him. I’m not concerned; we’ll get better. We just have to keep working hard to get where we want to be.”
The Huskies come to Atlanta for the first time since 1996, when the Jackets swept Connecticut in a three-game set at Russ Chandler Stadium.
“I don’t know a lot about Connecticut,” said Hall. “However, I did notice they’ve got two outstanding hitters back this season who hit a bunch of home runs last year. Both are all-Big East caliber, and I think the team is comparable to a school like Rutgers who we played last year. We just need to play right now and get the games in.”
The likely candidates to take the mound for the Jackets against Connecticut will be junior southpaw Cory Vance (Vandalia, Ohio), 2-1, 4.42 ERA, and sophomores Steve Kelly (Fairfield, Ohio), 1-1, 5.68 ERA, and Rhett Parrott (Dalton, Ga.), 1-1, 6.23 ERA.
Kelly made the only start over the weekend, allowing five runs (three earned) and five hits over 5-2/3 innings of work. He walked seven.
“I thought Kelly threw well, he really only made two bad pitches,” said Hall. “However, I’d like to see him cut his walks down a bit.”
The Jackets have struggled at the plate over the last two weeks, and have seen their team average dip fo .313, but Hall doesn’t plan any substantial lineup changes as a result.
“They’re all just in a slump right now,” he said. “We really haven’t hit consistently as a team and haven’t put runs on the board in the way that we can and we will.”
Sophomores Richard Lewis (Marietta, Ga.), .468, 1 HR, 10 RBI, Mark Teixeira (Severna Park, Md.), .444, 4 HR, 15 RBI, Victor Menocal (Gainesville, Ga.), .226, 1 HR, 11 RBI, and Wes Rynders (Marietta, Ga.), .250, 8 RBI continue to be fixtures at second base, third base, shortstop and in center field respectively.
The catching duties are shared by Bryan Prince (Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.), .432, 1 HR, 13 RBI and Tyler Parker (Marietta, Ga.), .244, 3 HR, 11 RBI, each of whom were hitless in the three games last week.
Derik Goffena (Sidney, Ohio), .286, 6 RBI, shares time with Parker at first base, while Brad Stockton (Marietta, Ga.), .200, 5 RBI, Jahmal Overton (Chattanooga, Tenn.), .261, 1 HR, 3 RBI, and Jon Henry Kail (Pittsburgh, Pa.), .250, 1 HR, 3 RBI, have shared the outfield duties.
“I think we have to improve in all areas,” said Hall. “We’re close to being a pretty decent team. We really haven’t clicked on all cylinders yet, and we haven’t hit or pitched as well as I know we’re capable of. We’re in a valley right now. We’ll climb out of it and work hard to get out.”
SERIES VS. CONNECTICUT
This weekend’s meetings between the Jackets and the Huskies will be the fifth, sixth and seventh all-time between the schools. The teams first met in the 1994 Midwest Regional in Wichita, Kan., a 7-1 Tech victory which started the Jackets’ run to a berth in the College World Series. Connecticut came to Russ Chandler Stadium in 1996 for a three-game series in early March, which the Jackets swept. Connecticut is the only scheduled Big East opponent on the Jackets’ schedule this year. Georgia Tech defeated Rutgers three times and West Virginia twice a year ago and is 14-3 all-time vs. the Big East.
RED CROSS REPORT
The Jackets have received both good and bad news over the last week with regard to the health of its squad. Junior Matthew Boggs (Dalton, Ga.) has progressed well from off-season reconstructive elbow surgery, and may be available to return sometime in April. Boggs has begun taking part in infield practice, and hopes to participate in live batting practice in the coming weeks.
However, some discouraging news this week as freshman outfielder Jason Perry (Jonesboro, Ga.) will be out for at least the next two weeks due to a slight fracture in his right hand. Perry has played with the injury for the last four weeks, but healing has not progressed as hoped, and his hand has been placed in a soft cast for the next two weeks.
TOO MUCH FREE TIME?
After what was expected to be a challenging week last week, this week’s off-days during Tech’s spring break were expected to be a well-earned rest. After a pair of rain outs over the weekend in California, however, Tech will go a full week between games, which will likely affect the Jackets’ pitching staff. Junior ace Cory Vance, who will likely start on Friday against Connecticut, will have a full 10 days off between starts, and will have pitched just once (4-1/3 innings at Georgia on Feb. 29) since Feb. 19.
However, after returning to action on Friday, the Jackets will play five games in each of the next three weeks.