ATLANTA (Feb. 26) — Riding a six-game winning streak, the top-ranked Georgia Tech baseball team plays six games in six days this week. The Yellow Jackets (7-1) are ranked No. 1 in this week’s Baseball America ,USA Today/Baseball Weekly and Collegiate Baseball polls.
Tech hosts Oakland for a two game set at Russ Chandler Stadium on Tuesday and Wednesday at 3 p.m. each day. On Thursday, the Yellow Jackets travel to the Disney Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla., for an exhibition game against the Atlanta Braves, which can be heard on WREK-Radio (91.1 FM) in Atlanta and on the internet at www.ramblinwreck.com. Tech wraps up the week with a three-game series against Rutgers at Russ Chandler Stadium this weekend, with first pitch set for 3 p.m. on Friday and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The Yellow Jackets suffered a blow last weekend when All-America third baseman Mark Teixeira (Severna Park, Md.) suffered a broken right ankle after colliding with left fielder Matthew Boggs (Dalton, Ga.) while chasing down a pop fly in shallow left field. Teixeira, who was batting .500 with four home runs and 11 RBI at the time of his injury, will undergo surgery on Tuesday morning and will be out for six to eight weeks.
“I am extremely disappointed for Mark, more so than for our team,” said Tech head coach Danny Hall, the 2000 Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year. “The good thing is that he is going to come out of it like new after a couple of months to get him healthy. Our team responded in a positive manner, and I think the big reason is that Mark was so positive about the injury. We were able to play well and still score runs, and that is encouraging.”
All-America second baseman Richard Lewis (Marietta, Ga.), .487-2-14, is off to a hot start after hitting in front of Teixeira in the first seven games of the season. With Teixeira out for the next two months, Hall looks for even more production from Lewis.
“Richard Lewis is a great player,” said Hall. “I’m very happy that he*s gotten off to a great start, and we*re going to need him now more than ever. I think he*s going to take on an even bigger role in our offense. He works very hard and is a great competitor, and it’s no accident that he is having a lot of success again this year.”
Junior Brian Jackson (Tifton, Ga.), .444-0-1, a transfer from Middle Georgia Junior College, has stepped into the lineup at third base in Teixeira*s absence. Jackson, whom Hall had hoped to redshirt this season, went 4-for-9 in two games against Elon last weekend.
Junior shortstop Victor Menocal (Gainesville, Ga.), .450-1-8, and the first base platoon of sophomore Jason Perry (Jonesboro, Ga.), .304-1-5, and senior in Derik Goffena (Sidney, Ohio), .385-0-2, round out the Georgia Tech infield.
Behind the plate, Tech uses the duo of junior Bryan Prince (Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.), .321-1-12, and sophomore Tyler Parker (Marietta, Ga.), .367-1-11. Prince and Parker have alternated behind the plate and at the DH spot so far this season.
The Tech outfield is bolstered by the return of Boggs from elbow surgery after missing all of last season. Boggs, who is one of the top leadoff hitters in college baseball, is batting an even .400 and has reached base in 17 of 34 plate appearances (.500 OB%). Senior Jason Basil (West Chester, Ohio), .343-2-7, starts in right field, while junior Wes Rynders (Marietta, Ga.), .419-2-5, patrols center field.
Hall’s Yellow Jackets also feature a deep and veteran bench including senior Brad Stockton (Marietta, Ga.), .182-0-1, who was an everyday starter in right field last year. Also in the mix are a pair of outfielders in sophomore Jon Henry Kail (Pittsburg, Pa.), .333-0-3, and freshman Matt Murton (McDonough, Ga.), .500-0-0.
As the schedule cranks up this week, Hall will turn deeper into the pitching staff. Tech*s starting rotation continues to be anchored by a trio of junior right handers in Steve Kelly (Fairfield, Ohio), 1-0, 4.34 ERA, Rhett Parrott (Dalton, Ga.), 3-0, 4.00, and Brian Sager (Branford, Conn.), 1-0, 6.00. The group will be the likely starters in the Rutgers series over the weekend. Sophomore righty Philip Perry (Marietta, Ga.), 0-0, 18.00, who was scheduled to start last Sunday against Elon before the game was rained out, will get his first start of the season this week against Oakland.
The Tech bullpen is led by sophomore closer Jeff Watchko (Roswell, Ga.), 0-1, 4.50, 2 SV, who has pitched well in his last three outings after suffering a ninth-inning loss at Rice in the opening weekend of the season. Senior Andy Mitchell (Conyers, Ga.), 1-0, 5.40, and junior Kevin Cameron (Joliet, Ill.), 0-0, 5.40, 1 SV, are Tech*s most experienced members of the bullpen, while Tech*s freshman class of Kyle Bakker (Omaha, Neb.), Brian Burks (Alpharetta, Ga.), Matt Lorenzo (Hartville, Ohio) and Aaron Walker (East Palestine, Ohio) have added solid contributions out of the pen in the early going. The rookie quartet has combined to allow just one earned run in 11.1 innings of work.
“We’re going to get into our pitching depth even more this week,” said Hall. “It was very encouraging to me over the weekend that our freshmen pitched so well. Brian Burks was the star of the game on Friday against Elon, and Matt Lorenzo and Aaron Walker both pitched well in their appearances, too. Jeff Watchko bounced back to have two very good outings last week. We need to get our starters throwing well to compliment those guys, and if we do that, then I think our team will really take off.”
SERIES VS. OAKLAND, RUTGERS AND THE ATLANTA BRAVES
Georgia Tech leads the all-time series with Oakland after sweeping a three-game set in Atlanta last season. Tech won by scores of 9-1, 9-5 and 22-3.
Tech and Rutgers have met on 23 previous occasions, all in Atlanta, and the Yellow Jackets lead the series 17-6. The two schools last met in 1999 when Tech swept a three-game series by scores of 12-3, 19-5 and 6-2. The Yellow Jackets are 7-2 against the Scarlet Knights under head coach Danny Hall.
Tech has faced the Atlanta Braves nine times since 1977, and the Braves have won all nine games by an average score of 9-2. They last met in 1999 at the Disney Wide World of Sports in Orlando, when the Braves took a 15-5 decision. The closest game in the series between the two teams came in 1989 when the Braves prevailed 3-0.
GEORGIA TECH BASEBALL THIS WEEK…
Tue.: OAKLAND, 3 p.m.
Wed.: OAKLAND, 3 p.m.
Thu.: Atlanta Braves [exh], Orlando, FL*, 1 p.m.
Fri.: RUTGERS, 3 p.m.
Sat.: RUTGERS, 1:30 p.m.
Sun.: RUTGERS, 1:30 p.m.
*Radio broadcast on WREK (91.1 FM)