ATLANTA (Feb. 7) – Georgia Tech, the nation’s No. 1 team in all three major baseball polls, opens its 2001 season in Houston, Tex., at the Crowne Plaza/Rice Invitational. Competing in the tournament, in addition to host and seventh-ranked Rice, are fourth-ranked Nebraska and Lamar.
The tournament schedule features Tech and Lamar in the opening game on Friday at 1 p.m. (CST), with Rice taking on Nebraska at 4:30 p.m. Saturday’s slate includes Tech vs. Rice at 1 p.m. and Nebraska vs. Lamar at 4:30, while Sunday’s schedule features Tech vs. Nebraska at 12 p.m. and Rice vs. Lamar at 3:30 p.m. All of Georgia Tech’s games in the tournament can be heard on WREK-radio, 91.1 FM, in the Atlanta area.
“Anytime you are playing for the first time, there is a lot of anticipation and a lot of nerves to calm,” said head coach Danny Hall, beginning his eighth season at Tech and a two-time ACC Coach of the Year. “But the good thing is that we do have a veteran team and you hope that we won¢t have a lot of that.
“We have some tremendous challenges this weekend,” Hall continued. “Lamar got out of the gate 3-0 last weekend, and Rice went 3-0 in a very tough tournament against three Big 12 teams. Nebraska is like us, they have high expectations and they are coming off a couple of great years. They will be playing for the first time, and I know they will be fired up to play. It’s a great pre-season tournament, and we’ll find out a lot about where we are at as a team right now.”
Tech is coming off a 2000 season in which the Yellow Jackets posted a 50-16 record and captured the Atlantic Coast Conference’s regular season and tournament championships. The Jackets welcome back all nine position starters and six of their top eight pitchers from last year’s squad
The Yellow Jackets have a consensus pre-season all-America in junior third baseman Mark Teixeira (Severna Park, Md.). Teixeira, who was the winner of the Dick Howser Trophy as the National Player of the year last spring, is regarded as one of the premier hitters in college baseball. He led the Yellow Jackets in almost every offensive category in 2000 while winning the ACC’s batting crown with a .427 average and leading the league with 18 home runs.
Joining Teixeira is a talented and veteran group of performers, and Hall’s squad has seven different players who were named to pre-season All-America teams by either Baseball America or Collegiate Baseball. That list includes seniors Jason Basil (West Chester, Ohio), .382-15-83, in the outfield, and Bryan Prince (Ft. Oglethorpe, Ga.), .387-8-77, behind the plate, junior Richard Lewis (Marietta, Ga.), .398-4-52, at second base, and sophomore Tyler Parker (Marietta, Ga.), .238-11-41, at catcher or first base. Tech’s pre-season All-America pitchers are a pair of junior right-handers in Rhett Parrott (Dalton, Ga.), who went 8-3 with a 4.48 ERA last spring, and Brian Sager (Branford, Conn.), a transfer from Stanford who owns a 12-1 career record.
Other returning starters include junior Victor Menocal (Gainesville, Ga.), .329-3-39, at shortstop, senior Derik Goffena (Sidney, Ohio), .301-4-56, as the primary DH, and senior Brad Stockton (Marietta, Ga.), .342-7-39, and junior Wes Rynders (Marietta, Ga.), .263-1-30, in the outfield. Making his return to active duty is outfielder Matthew Boggs (Dalton, Ga.), Tech’s leadoff specialist who missed all of the 2000 season with an elbow injury.
A trio of junior right-handers will take the mound for Hall this weekend. Parrott will start Friday against Lamar, while Steve Kelly (Fairfield, Ohio), who posted an 8-2 record and a 4.73 ERA in 2000, will get the nod on Saturday against Rice, and Sager will take the hill on Sunday against Nebraska. Tech¢s bullpen of senior Andy Mitchell (Conyers, Ga.), junior Kevin Cameron (Joliet, Ill.) and sophomores Jeff Watchko (Roswell, Ga.) and Philip Perry (Marietta, Ga) combined for a 17-3 record and 13 saves last spring.
“I’ve been impressed with the way the pitchers have thrown, in particular Rhett Parrott, Steve Kelly and Brian Sager,” said Hall. “I’m confident that those guys are going to throw well. In the beginning of the season you have to figure that your hitting is going to be a little behind, so you hope that you pitch and play good enough defense to win the games early.”