ATLANTA (Mar. 20) — The third-ranked Georgia Tech baseball team continues its eight-game homestand with one game against 22nd-ranked Georgia and three games with Maryland this week at Russ Chandler Stadium. 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 Bulldogs on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the second of four scheduled games between the two teams this season. The Yellow Jackets host Maryland for a three game Atlantic Coast Conference series at Russ Chandler Stadium, with first pitch at 7 p.m. on Friday and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. All four games this week will be broadcast live on WREK-Radio (91.1 FM in Atlanta) and on the internet at www.ramblinwreck.com.
The Yellow Jackets posted a perfect 4-0 record last week against Georgia State and Kent State to rebound after stumbling to a 1-3 mark the week before.
“It was a good week for us last week, and we made a lot of progress with our team last week,” said Tech head coach Danny Hall, the 2000 Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year. “The week prior was a week where we didn’t play well, and last week was a week where we did play well in all phases of the game. We are going to have to continue to do that, and the schedule is certainly not getting any easier.
“It is a big week for us, and it’s a week where we need to make a statement both nationally and within the ACC. We have a great rivalry with Georgia. We were very fortunate to win up there earlier in the season, and I’m looking for us to play well at home. We need to play well against Maryland this weekend so that we can get back into the middle of the ACC hunt.”
After losing the team’s top hitter, All-America third baseman Mark Teixeira (Severna Park, Md.), .500, 4 HR, 11 RBI, until May with a broken right ankle, Hall did some juggling with the infield this week. Junior Victor Menocal (Gainesville, Ga.), .400-1-20, moved from shortstop to third base while junior Richard Lewis (Marietta, Ga.), .396-5-31, slid over to shortstop from second base. Redshirt junior Matthew Boggs (Dalton, Ga.), .375-0-14, 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. Menocal, Lewis and Boggs started all four games at the new positions last week.
“I definitely liked what I saw,” said Hall. “It improved our team, and that was the reason to make the move. Anytime you make a move like that, the only way that it is going to work is if the players involved make it work for the good of the team. I can’t say enough about all three players — Menocal, Boggs and Lewis — in the way that they have handled it.”
Moving Boggs back to the infield has opened the door for Hall to get some other bats into the lineup, particularly sophomore Jon Henry Kail (Pittsburgh, Pa.), .400-1-14, and freshman Matt Murton (McDonough, Ga.), .333-1-7. Both are outfielders and they constitute the biggest power threats in the Tech lineup while Teixeira is on the shelf. Senior Brad Stockton (Marietta, Ga.), .342-1-7, who has also seen more at bats since the shuffle, gives Hall the luxury of adding another left handed bat into the lineup.
“The reason we made the move was so that we could get guys like Murton and Kail in the lineup,” said Hall. “Brad Stockton came in on Saturday and Sunday and gave us a big lift. It gave us another way to get some more offense in the lineup, and I think we benefitted by it.”
Sophomore Jason Perry (Jonesboro, Ga.), .325-5-18, rounds out the Tech infield at first base, while senior Jason Basil (West Chester, Ohio), .293-2-18, and junior Wes Rynders (Marietta, Ga.), .295-2-12, who start in right and center field respectively, make up the remainder of the outfield.
Senior Bryan Prince (Ft. Oglethorpe, Ga.), .434-4-34, 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, started three of Tech’s four games last week behind the plate. Sophomore catcher Tyler Parker (Marietta, Ga.), .342-1-13, suffered a broken right thumb after being hit by a pitch on Feb. 28 and is out for at least one more week.
On the mound, sophomore righty Philip Perry (Marietta, Ga.), 2-1, 5.68 ERA, will get the starting nod on Wednesday against Georgia. Perry has pitched well in each of his three starts this season, and his only loss as at Auburn where he fell victim to no run support (7 IP, 3 ER).
For the Maryland series, Tech will turn to a pair of junior right-handers on Friday and Saturday in Steve Kelly (Fairfield, Ohio), 3-0, 4.14 ERA, and Rhett Parrott (Dalton, Ga.), 5-1, 5.19. Kelly paces the staff with 41.1 innings pitched this spring while Parrott is tied for the ACC lead with five victories. Both players pitched well in their most recent start against a good hitting Kent State club last weekend.
Sunday’s starter has yet to be determined, but it will be one of two junior righties in Brian Sager (Branford, Conn.), 1-0, 7.07, or Kevin Cameron (Joliet, Ill.), 3-1, 4.72, 1 SV. Sager pitched last week for the first time in nearly three weeks after suffering from some stiffness in his right arm. Cameron, who started in Sager’s absence, has been impressive in three of his four starts.
The Tech bullpen was especially effective last week as four different hurlers combined to allow just one run in 12.1 innings of work (0.73 ERA).
“I think all of the guys out of the pen pitched well,” said Hall. “And in every case they came out of the bullpen in a situation where the game needed to be settled. I also think that all of our starters pitched well. As much as we have made some moves to help us offensively, I think that our pitching staff pitched extremely well last week.”
The Tech bullpen is led by sophomore closer Jeff Watchko (Roswell, Ga.), 0-1, 2.25, SV, who has not allowed a run in eight of his last nine outings after suffering a ninth-inning loss at Rice in the opening weekend of the season. Senior Andy Mitchell (Conyers, Ga.), 1-1, 3.38, 1 SV, is Tech’s most experienced member 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 10 earned runs in 36 innings of work (2.50 ERA).
SERIES VS. GEORGIA AND MARYLAND
Georgia: Georgia Tech defeated Georgia, 10-8, on Feb. 21 in Athens, but the Bulldogs still hold a 177-134-2 lead in the all-time series. However, the Yellow Jackets have either won or split the regular season series every year since 1987. Tech holds a 76-63-1 lead in games played in Atlanta, and the Yellow Jackets are 19-9 against the Bulldogs under head coach Danny Hall.
Maryland: Georgia Tech leads the all-time series with Maryland, 44-17, after sweeping a three-game set in College Park last year. Tech has dominated the series of late, winning seven in a row since 1998 and 18 of the last 19 in the series dating back to 1994. Tech has won 26 of 31 games played in Atlanta, including nine in a row and 21 of the last 22. The Yellow Jackets are 19-2 against the Terrapins under Hall.
GEORGIA TECH BASEBALL THIS WEEK
Tue.: GEORGIA* — 7 p.m.
Fri.: MARYLAND* — 7 p.m.
Sat.: MARYLAND* — 1:30 p.m.
Sun.: MARYLAND* — 1:30 p.m.
Radio broadcast on WREK (91.1 FM) All Times Eastern