ATLANTA – The 13th-ranked Georgia Tech baseball team plays two games against rival Georgia, ranked 25th, before hosting No. 11 Florida State for a three-game Atlantic Coast Conference series this weekend. The Yellow Jackets, who spent the first six weeks of the season as the No. 1 team in the nation, are currently ranked No. 13 in this week’s Baseball America poll.
Tech hosts Georgia on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Russ Chandler Stadium, and the two teams will square off again on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Foley Field in Athens. Tuesday’s game will be televised on Fox Sports Net South.
The Yellow Jackets, who stand fourth in the ACC standings with a 10-8 record host the first-place Seminoles (14-1 ACC) this weekend, with first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, 1 p.m on Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Friday’s game will be televised on Fox Sports Net South, while Saturday’s game can be seen on the ACC’s Regional Network (Fox Sports Net South, Home Team Sports and the Sunshine Network).
All five games this week will be broadcast live on WREK-Radio (91.1 FM in Atlanta) and on the internet at www.ramblinwreck.com.
Tech’s overall record stands at 31-12 after posting a 2-2 record last week against Auburn and Clemson. Standing between the Yellow Jackets and the Seminoles in the ACC standings are Clemson (10-5) and Wake Forest (14-7). Virginia (9-12), Duke (7-10), NC State (7-11), North Carolina (6-12) and Maryland (3-13) round out the league.
“We have yet another challenging week ahead of us,” said Tech head coach Danny Hall, the 2000 Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year. “Georgia has played very well in their league this year, and they have battled us twice already. We have our hands full, and it should be two great games in the rivalry.
“Florida State comes in having lost five of their last six games in the last two weekends against Miami. They will be coming into our house this weekend hungry to win, and that means that we have to be ready to go.”
All-America third baseman Mark Teixeira (Severna Park, Md.), .500, 4 HR, 11 RBI, continues his rehab work after suffering a broken right ankle on Feb. 23. Teixeira returned to uniform last Tuesday against Auburn, and he has participated in batting practice while also taking ground balls at third base since then. Teixeira is shooting for a possible return to action as soon as this weekend against Florida State.
In the meantime, junior Victor Menocal (Gainesville, Ga.), .374-3-37, has moved from shortstop to third base while junior Richard Lewis (Marietta, Ga.), .37-9-47, slid over to shortstop from second base. Redshirt junior Matthew Boggs (Dalton, Ga.), .346-0-23, who has played primarily in the outfield this year after starting at second base in 1998 and 1999, has returned to his old position at second base. Junior college transfer Brian Jackson (Tifton, Ga.), .340-0-10, has also seen action at third base and is the primary backup at the position.
Moving Boggs back to the infield has opened the door for Hall to get some other bats into the lineup, particularly freshman Matt Murton (McDonough, Ga.), .346-6-29, and senior Brad Stockton (Marietta, Ga.), .353-6-32.
Sophomore Jason Perry (Jonesboro, Ga.), .343-9-38, rounds out the Tech infield at first base, while veteran senior Derik Goffena (Sidney, Ohio), .269-0-9, has seen part time action against left-handed pitching at first base and DH.
Senior Jason Basil (West Chester, Ohio), .331-9-47, and junior Wes Rynders (Marietta, Ga.), .280-2-19, who start in right and center field respectively, make up the remainder of the outfield.
Senior Bryan Prince (Ft. Oglethorpe, Ga.), .370-5-51, is Tech’s everyday catcher after being limited to DH duty during the end of February and early March with a sore shoulder. Sophomore catcher Tyler Parker (Marietta, Ga.), .327-1-16, suffered a broken right thumb after being hit by a pitch on Feb. 28, but he since returned to the field. Parker, however, was struck by a foul ball while behind the plate on Mar. 14, just one week after returning from the broken thumb, which resulted in a hairline fracture in his right forearm and will now miss another two to three weeks.
As a team, the Tech offense is still batting a collective .342 after hitting a school-record .342 last season despite being held to one run on eight hits in the first two games of the Clemson series. The Yellow Jackets are averaging 10 runs per game.
“We have a good hitting team,” said Hall. “But unfortunately we didn’t see much of that in the first two games of the Clemson series. I thought we had a much better approach at the plate on Sunday, and that’s a positive sign.”
On the mound, Junior righty Kevin Cameron (Joliet, Ill.), 5-2, 5.73, 1 SV, and freshman right hander Matt Lorenzo (Hartville, Ohio) 3-0, 2.30, will get the starting nods in the Georgia series on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
For the Florida State series, Tech will turn to a pair of junior right handers on Friday and Saturday in Steve Kelly (Fairfield, Ohio), 6-2, 3.38 ERA, and Rhett Parrott (Dalton, Ga.), 7-3, 5.03. Kelly paces the staff with 77.1 innings pitched and two complete games this spring, while Parrott currently ranks second in the ACC with seven victories.
Freshman southpaw Kyle Bakker (Omaha, Neb.), 3-0, 2.55, is the scheduled starter in the series finale on Sunday after picking up two wins in starts over Auburn and Clemson last week. The 6’9 Bakker held both teams of Tigers to just one earned run in 16 innings (0.56 ERA).
“Kyle Bakker pitched great,” said Hall. “He certainly had a big week, beating a good Auburn team on Tuesday and then pitching very well on the road at Clemson after we had lost two games in a row. He’s a big guy and he pitched like a big guy.”
The Tech bullpen is led by sophomore closer Jeff Watchko (Roswell, Ga.), 0-2, 2.33, 6 SV, who is already tied for sixth place in Yellow Jacket history with 12 career saves. Senior Andy Mitchell (Conyers, Ga.), 1-1, 4.41, 2 SV, is Tech’s most experienced member of the bullpen, while the remainder of staff is rounded out by sophomore righty Philip Perry (Marietta, Ga.), 2-2, 7.61, freshman righty Brian Burks (Alpharetta, Ga.), 2-0, 3.38, 1 SV, and rookie southpaw Aaron Walker (East Palestine, Ohio), 0-0, 9.72.
As a team, Tech pitchers combined for a 2.38 ERA in four games last week while holding opponents to a .238 batting average despite posting just a 2-2 record. The Yellow Jackets bounced back after allowing 39 runs in three games to Wake Forest the week prior.
“We pitched good enough to win all four games this week, and that’s a good sign,” said Hall. “We need to have that good pitching going down the stretch for our team to be successful.”
SERIES VS. UGA, FSU
Georgia: Georgia Tech and Georgia have split the first two meetings of the season in the annual four game series, and the Bulldogs hold a 178-134-2 lead in the all-time series that dates back to 1898. However, the Yellow Jackets have either won or split the regular season series every year since 1987. Tech holds a 76-64-1 lead in games played in Atlanta, while Georgia holds a 103-47 lead in games played in Athens. The Yellow Jackets are 19-10 against the Bulldogs under head coach Danny Hall.
Florida State: In a series that dates to 1959, Florida State leads Georgia Tech 47-20 although the two teams split four meetings a year ago. The Seminoles took two of three in Tallahassee before the Yellow Jackets eliminated the Seminoles from the ACC Tournament with a 10-3 victory. Two years ago in Atlanta, FSU took two of three and the ‘Noles now hold a 16-9 lead in games played on Tech’s campus. Tech is 10-14 against Florida State under Danny Hall.
GEORGIA TECH BASEBALL THIS WEEK…
Tue.: GEORGIA* [FSNS] – 7 p.m.
Wed.: at Georgia* – 6:30 p.m.
Fri.: FLORIDA STATE* [FSNS] – 7 p.m.
Sat.: FLORIDA STATE* [RSN] – 1 p.m.
Sun.: FLORIDA STATE* – 1:30 p.m.
[FSNS] – Televised on Fox Sports Net South
[RSN] – Televised on Fox Sports Net South, HTS and Sunshine.
*Radio broadcast on WREK (91.1 FM)