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No. 21 Jackets Look to Regain Winning Ways, Against Charleston Southern, N.C. State

ATLANTA (Mar. 27) – After seeing its nine-game winning streak halted by Duke on Saturday night, No. 21 Georgia Tech attempts to return to its winning ways this week as the Jackets host Charleston Southern for a mid-week pair of games before starting a seven-game road swing this weekend at N.C. State.

The Jackets and Buccaneers will square of at 7 p.m. Tuesday and 4 p.m. Wednesday at Russ Chandler Stadium. Friday and Saturday’s games in Raleigh will start at 7 p.m., with Sunday’s finale slated for 1:30 p.m. at Doak Field.

Wednesday’s game against CSU will be Tech’s 28th of the season, marking the mid-point of the regular season. Head coach Danny Hall likes where his team stands halfway through the 2000 campaign.

“We’re in good shape,” said Hall, whose team pounded Duke 14-1 Friday before dropping 4-3 decisions Saturday and Sunday. “Last weekend was disappointing, we just couldn’t get a hit at the right time. Our pitching all last week was very good, so that’s very encouraging. We got plenty of hits, just not at the right time. That’s part of baseball, though. You just have to give Duke credit.”

On the mound, Hall will turn to sophomore right-hander Steve Kelly (Fairfield, Ohio), 2-1, 5.97 ERA, on Tuesday and either Brad Busbin (Orlando, Fla.), 1-1, 4.50 ERA, or Philip Perry (Marietta, Ga.), 0-0, 3.38 ERA, on Wednesday against Charleston Southern.

Following Wednesday’s game, the Jackets visit N.C. State in Raleigh in the first of three ACC road series in the next four weekends.

“If you’re going to finish in the top half of the league, you have to win some games away from home,” said Hall. “N.C. State has played well at home, as they took two of three from Wake Forest two weeks ago, then battled North Carolina in Chapel Hill last weekend.”

Junior southpaw Cory Vance (Vandalia, Ohio), 5-1, 2.90 ERA, will get the ball for Tech in Friday night’s opener against the Wolfpack. Vance continued his winning ways against Duke, allowing just one run over seven innings to pick up his fifth win last Friday night.

For Saturday’s and Sunday’s contests, Hall will choose between senior lefty Ben Sheeter (Lilburn, Ga.), 0-2, 5.22 ERA, sophomore right-hander Rhett Parrott (Dalton, Ga.), 3-2, 4.68 ERA, and freshman right-hander Jeff Watchko (Roswell, Ga.), 2-0, 2.67 ERA.

At the plate, the Jackets’ lineup continues to be anchored by a pair of sophomores, second baseman Richard Lewis (Marietta, Ga.), .495, 3 HR, 26 RBI, and third baseman Mark Teixeira (Severna Park, Md.), .402, 7 HR, 29 RBI.

“Lewis has been great,” said Hall. “He’s doing his job as a leadoff hitter, and I’ve got confidence in him that if there are runners on, he can come up and drive them in.”

Fellow sophomore Victor Menocal (Gainesville, Ga.), .269, 2 HR, 16 RBI, has made every start in 2000 at shortstop, and continues to see his numbers at the plate rise.

Junior Derik Goffena (Sidney, Ohio), .292, 1 HR, 16 RBI, and freshman Tyler Parker (Marietta, Ga.), .274, 6 HR, 22 RBI, share time at first base and in the designated hitter role, while junior Bryan Prince (Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.), .379, 3 HR, 27 RBI, is the primary starter behind the plate with Parker as his backup.

Tech’s outfield has settled into a primary threesome of juniors Jason Basil (West Chester, Ohio), .299, 1 HR, 16 RBI, and Brad Stockton (Marietta, Ga.), .282, 2 HR, 12 RBI, in left and right field, with sophomore Wes Rynders (Marietta, Ga.), .245, 15 RBI in center.

Hall recognizes that this weekend’s trip to Raleigh gives his team a chance to make up for a tough weekend against Duke last weekend.

“It’s a big test for us,” said Hall. “After dropping a few at home, we need to go on the road and steal a couple of victories.”

The arrival of the Buccaneers in Atlanta on Tuesday night will mark the fourth straight year that Tech and CSU have squared off on the diamond. In the short series history, dating back to 1995, the Jackets have taken seven of the eight meetings from Charleston Southern. A year ago, the Jackets belted out 42 runs and 41 hits against Buccaneer pitching, as Tech won the pair of games at Russ Chandler Stadium by scores of 22-4 and 20-13.

The Wolfpack have been a far more familiar foe for the Jackets, as Friday night’s matchup in Raleigh will mark the 81st between the two teams. Tech holds a 44-36 lead overall in the series, and the Jackets have taken nine of the last thirteen meetings between the teams. The history of the series between the two teams is broken into two distinct parts, as the two teams squared off 10 times in the 1920’s, but after 1927, didn’t face each other again until Tech began ACC play in 1980.

A year ago, the teams split the four meetings, as the Jackets took the first two of three during the regular season at Russ Chandler Stadium. N.C. State took the finale and also captured a key ACC Tournament victory. The Wolfpack ended Tech’s season a year ago, having knocked off the Jackets 9-6 in the third round of the ACC Tournament.

This weekend’s series will be the third in a row against foes from the “Triangle” in North Carolina, as North Carolina and Duke have visited Russ Chandler Stadium the last two weekends.

Making up for the two games that were washed out in California earlier this month, the Georgia Tech has added a pair of home games to its 2000 schedule. The Jackets will host The Citadel on April 12 at 6 p.m. and East Tennessee State on May 3 at 7 p.m. The game against ETSU will be broadcast on WREK-FM (91.1).

By the time April rolls around in a college baseball season, a batter who holds a batting average of near .400 has had a great start, but what about someone hitting nearly .500?

Sophomore second baseman Richard Lewis continues on a torrid pace, and posted a remarkable week at the plate last week. Lewis, who enters the week at .495 overall, and briefly saw his average reach .500 during Sunday’s game, went 14-for-23 last week (.609) with a home run, three doubles and seven RBI. Included in those 14 hits was a game-winning single on Tuesday night in the bottom of the ninth, as Tech rallied past Eastern Kentucky, 3-2.

While seeing his career-best hitting streak reach 16 games, Lewis has hit safely in 24 of 25 games in 2000. Even more impressive is that through Sunday, Lewis has posted 17 multi-hit games, and seven in a row. The sophomore from Marietta also fills his role as a leadoff hitter, as he leads the Jackets with a .557 on-base percentage.


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