ATLANTA (April 9) – The third-ranked Georgia Tech baseball team opens a six-game homestand this week with two games against in-state rival Georgia Southern and three games against Atlantic Coast Conference foe Wake Forest. The Yellow Jackets, who spent the first six weeks of the season as the No. 1 team in the nation, are currently ranked No. 3 in this week’s Baseball America poll.
Tech hosts the Eagles on Tuesday at 7 p.m. and Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Russ Chandler Stadium. The Yellow Jackets host the Demon Deacons this weekend, with first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m on Saturday and Sunday. The games on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday will be televised live by Fox Sports Net South, while Saturday’s game is the ACC Game of the Week and 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 also 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 26-8 after posting a 3-1 record last week. The Yellow Jackets are currently in second place in the ACC standings with an 8-4 record behind first-place Florida State (14-1). Wake Forest (9-6), Clemson (5-4) and Duke (5-7) round out the top half of the league.
“Georgia Southern is a team that I think is very good,” said Tech head coach Danny Hall, the 2000 Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year. “It is going to be two crucial midweek games for us. We will have a chance to get a little deeper into the pitching staff in hopes that we are preparing these guys for starting assignments down the road in the postseason.
“Florida State is running away from everybody in the league. But the good thing for us is that we get to play all the teams that are in contention over the next couple of weeks. Wake Forest is a very good team, and they have been scoring a lot of runs. This weekend will be a major test for our club, but we”re in the position where we can control our own destiny by playing well.”
Hall is without the team’s top hitter, All-America third baseman Mark Teixeira (Severna Park, Md.), .500, 4 HR, 11 RBI, through April with a broken right ankle. Junior Victor Menocal (Gainesville, Ga.), .389-2-33, has moved from shortstop to third base while junior Richard Lewis (Marietta, Ga.), .380-7-40, slid over to shortstop from second base. Redshirt junior Matthew Boggs (Dalton, Ga.), .324-0-18, 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.), .364-0-9, 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.), .395-5-23, and senior Brad Stockton (Marietta, Ga.), .365-4-27. Both players have been key run producers in recent weeks. Since joining the starting lineup 15 games ago, Murton is batting .419-5-23, while Stockton is hitting .383-4-22 in his current 13-game hitting streak.
Sophomore Jason Perry (Jonesboro, Ga.), .347-7-32, rounds out the Tech infield at first base, while senior Jason Basil (West Chester, Ohio), .357-7-38, and junior Wes Rynders (Marietta, Ga.), .275-2-16, who start in right and center field respectively, make up the remainder of the outfield.
Senior Bryan Prince (Ft. Oglethorpe, Ga.), .405-4-47, has returned from an elbow injury to retake his place as Tech’s everyday catcher. Prince, who was limited to DH duty in 16 of the first 18 games of the season, has started 15 of Tech’s last 16 games behind the plate. Sophomore catcher Tyler Parker (Marietta, Ga.), .341-1-15, suffered a broken right thumb after being hit by a pitch on Feb. 28, but he returned to the field for the first time last weekend at Duke.
As a team, the Tech offense is batting a collective .356 after hitting a school-record .342 last season and the Yellow Jackets are averaging 10.6 runs per game.
“We certainly swung the bats a little better last week,” said Hall. “Matt Murton continues to impress, and Jason Basil and Brad Stockton both had big weekends at Duke. To be a good team and to be successful, you need to have a number of different guys to contribute. No one player can carry a team.”
Junior righty Brian Sager (Branford, Conn.), 2-0, 6.64, will start on Tuesday night against Georgia Southern in the third start since coming back from an arm injury. Sager has made just three appearances for the Yellow Jackets before being sidelined with stiffness in his right arm for three weeks. Sager made his return to the mound two weeks ago against Mercer, and he was especially impressive in his most recent start against Georgia State last week (4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 6 K). Freshman southpaw Kyle Bakker (Omaha, Neb.), 0-0, 3.38, will get his first start of his young career in the second game of the Georgia Southern series on Wednesday afternoon.
For the Wake Forest series, Tech will turn to a pair of junior right handers on Friday and Saturday in Steve Kelly (Fairfield, Ohio), 5-1, 2.70 ERA, and Rhett Parrott (Dalton, Ga.), 7-2, 4.69. Kelly paces the staff with 63.1 innings pitched and two complete games this spring, while Parrott is tied for the ACC lead with seven victories.
Kelly has been especially impressive of late, having tossed 23 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run dating back to Mar. 16 against Kent State. Since that start, Kelly hasn”t allowed an earned run in stints against Maryland (7 IP), Virginia (8 IP) and Duke (7 IP).
Sunday’s starter has yet to be determined, but it will likely be Sager or junior righty Kevin Cameron (Joliet, Ill.), 5-1, 4.35, 1 SV. Cameron, who has started in Sager’s absence, has been impressive in five of his seven starts including six innings without an earned run last Sunday at Duke.
The Tech bullpen is led by sophomore closer Jeff Watchko (Roswell, Ga.), 0-1, 1.35, 4 SV, who has not allowed a run in his last 13.1 innings out of the pen. Senior Andy Mitchell (Conyers, Ga.), 1-1, 2.57, 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, 7.17, and freshmen righties Brian Burks (Alpharetta, Ga.), 2-0, 3.98, 1 SV, and Matt Lorenzo (Hartville, Ohio) 2-0, 1.35, and rookie southpaw Aaron Walker (East Palestine, Ohio), 0-0, 10.12.
SERIES VS. GA. SOUTHERN AND WAKE FOREST
Georgia Southern: Georgia Tech took two games from Georgia Southern, 23-3 and 10-2, earlier this season in Statesboro, and the Yellow Jackets now lead the all-time series 56-20. Tech has won 11 in a row in the series dating back to 1998, and the Yellow Jackets hold a 32-10 lead in games played in Atlanta, and Tech is 24-8 against Georgia Southern under head coach Danny Hall.
Wake Forest: Georgia Tech leads Wake Forest, 46-28-1, in a series that dates back to 1898. Tech went 3-1 against Wake last year, winning two of three meetings in Winston-Salem before taking a 6-3 decision in the second round of the ACC Tournament in Charlotte. The Yellow Jackets hold a 29-9 lead in games played in Atlanta, including winning 22 of the last 24 dating back to 1982. Tech is 15-9 against Wake Forest under Hall.
GEORGIA TECH BASEBALL THIS WEEK…
Tue.: GEORGIA SOUTHERN* [FSNS] 7 p.m.
Wed.: GEORGIA SOUTHERN* 4 p.m.
Fri.: WAKE FOREST* [FSNS] 7 p.m.
Sat.: WAKE FOREST* [RSN] 1 p.m.
Sun.: WAKE FOREST* [FSNS] 1 p.m.
[FSNS] – Televised on Fox Sports Net South
[RSN] – Televised on Fox Sports Net South, HTS and Sunshine Network
*Radio broadcast on WREK (91.1 FM) * All Times Eastern