ATLANTA (May 8) — The third-ranked Georgia Tech baseball team wraps up the 2000 regular season this week with a chance to clinch the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season championship.
Tech’s record currently stands at 38-12 overall and 16-5 in ACC play, pending Monday night’s game at No. 13 Miami. The Yellow Jackets, who stand in first place in the ACC regular season standings ahead of Clemson (14-6 ACC), Florida State (13-7) and Wake Forest (13-8), are in the driver’s seat to clinch the title. Georgia Tech has a magic number of two, meaning that any combination of two Tech wins or opponent losses will seal a first-place finish.
This week’s schedule includes a pair of non-conference home game against Mercer and East Tennessee State on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 p.m. each night, before the Jackets travel to Winston-Salem to face 15th-ranked Wake Forest in a three-game ACC series. Tech and the Demon Deacons will play Friday at 2 p.m, Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
“You have to be pleased anytime that you can control your own destiny, and we have a chance to do that this weekend,” said Tech head coach Danny Hall. “But that will be no easy task because Wake Forest is an outstanding team. They have been one of the premier clubs in our league over the last few years, and it’s going to be a great test for us.”
For the midweek games against Mercer and East Tennessee State, Hall will turn to senior Ben Sheeter (Lilburn, Ga.), 3-3, 5.43 ERA, and freshman Philip Perry (Marietta, Ga.), 2-0, 3.62. Both have been successful as weekday starters this season as Sheeter has picked up victories in his last three starts and Perry owns wins in starts against Charleston Southern and Georgia Southern.
Georgia Tech’s starting rotation for the series at Wake Forest will remain the same, with junior southpaw Cory Vance (Vandalia, Ohio), 10-2, 2.90 getting the call in Friday afternoon’s opener. The Jackets’ leader in victories, innings pitched (87) and strikeouts (96), Vance has picked up wins in eight of his last nine starts and is 6-1 against ACC foes.
For Saturday’s and Sunday’s contests, Hall will turn to a pair of righty sophomores in Rhett Parrott (Dalton, Ga.), 6-2, 3.29, and Steve Kelly (Fairfield, Ohio), 6-2, 4.52. Both Parrott and Kelly have been in the rotation in Georgia Tech’s last six weekend series, and both had been very effective of late. Parrott owns a 1.55 ERA and is undefeated in his last five starts while Kelly is 5-1 in his last seven starting assignments.
“Our starting pitching has been outstanding lately, and both Cory Vance and Rhett Parrott had outstanding starts at Miami,” said Hall. “That’s a great sign as we go to Wake Forest this weekend and as we enter tournament play. To be successful, you have to get solid performances out of your staring pitchers.”
Not to be outdone by the starting rotation, Tech’s bullpen has been solid. While Vance, Parrott, Kelly and Sheeter have solidified the rotation, freshmen Jeff Watchko (Roswell, Ga.), 3-1, 2.51, and Perry, sophomore Kevin Cameron (Joliet, Ill.), 4-1, 3.80, and junior Andy Mitchell (Conyers, Ga.), 3-0, 4.94, have all provided consistent results out of the bullpen, which is 9-4 with 11 saves this season.
At the plate, the Jackets’ lineup is led by third baseman Mark Teixeira (Severna Park, Md.), .428, 13 HR, 57 RBI, and leadoff hitter and second baseman Richard Lewis (Marietta, Ga.), .422, 4, 45. However both players, who rank second and third in the ACC batting race, have seen their batting averages dip over the last two weeks.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to expect Richard Lewis to hit .500 for the entire season,” said Hall. “He hasn’t been swinging the bat in the last few weeks as well as he did earlier in the season, but he’s working hard to get his stroke back.
“I think in Mark’s case, teams are pitching around him and not giving him a chance do much damage. As a result, we’ve seen some other guys step up and get the job done. That’s somewhat to be expected and that’s why we call it a team – Mark cannot do it all by himself.”
Sophomore Victor Menocal (Gainesville, Ga.), .327, 2, 26, is the everyday starter at shortstop, and he has seen his average climb above the .300 mark by hitting safely in 21 of the last 24 games and batting .388 in that stretch.
Junior Bryan Prince (Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.), .371, 6, 56, who sees the majority of the time behind the plate, has been one of Tech’s hotter hitters of late. Prince is batting .419 with 24 RBI in the last 16 games.
Junior Derik Goffena (Sidney, Ohio), .319, 2, 47, and freshman Tyler Parker (Marietta, Ga.), .245, 10, 37, have split time at first base and at the designated hitter position, while freshman Jason Perry (Jonesboro, Ga.), .275-2-7, has also entered into the mix at those two positions after coming back from a broken hand. Perry is batting .500 (8-for-16) with two home runs and six RBI in the last six games.
The Tech outfield consists of juniors Jason Basil (West Chester, Ohio), .347, 6, 49, and Brad Stockton (Marietta, Ga.), .301, 3, 21, in left and right field respectively, while sophomore Wes Rynders (Marietta, Ga.), .272, 1, 26, is the everyday center fielder.
SERIES VS. THIS WEEK’S OPPONENTS
In a series that dates back to 1897, Georgia Tech holds a 90-50 advantage over in-state foe Mercer. The two clubs met previously on April 11 in Macon, and the Yellow Jackets claimed a 19-6 victory. Tech, which is 52-22 against Mercer in Atlanta, has won eight of the last nine games in the series.
Georgia Tech owns a 16-0 record against East Tennessee State, with all of those games coming in Atlanta. The two schools last met in 1991 when the Jackets swept a three-game series.
Tech and Wake Forest have met on 71 previous occasions, and the Yellow Jackets hold a 43-27-1 lead in the all-time series. Last year in Atlanta, the Demon Deacons took the first two games of the series by scores of 22-1 and 12-3 before the Yellow Jackets battled back to win the series finale, 8-6. Tech is 8-15-1 in games played in Winston-Salem, although the Jackets won two of three games there during their last visit in 1998.
VANCE GOES THE DISTANCE, GETS 10 WINS
Southpaw Cory Vance picked up his 10th victory of the season with a complete-game four-hitter at Miami last Saturday. The complete game effort was his third of the season as he reached the 10-victory plateau for the first time in his career. Vance, who became the 20th pitcher in Tech history to win 10 games in a season, is currently tied for seventh place in Tech annuals with 25 career victories.
For his win over the Hurricances, Vance earned ACC Pitcher of the Week honors for the second straight week and the fourth time this season, more than any other ACC hurler.
HALL EYES 500
Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall enters Monday night’s game at Miami just one win shy of 500 for his career. Now in his 13th year as a head coach at the Division I level, Hall’s career record stands at 499-249 (.668 winning percentage). He is now in his seventh season at Georgia Tech, where his record is 291-132 (.689). The 1997 ACC and National Coach of the Year, Hall’s Tech teams have averaged 42 wins per year, including a 50-win season and a College World Series appearance in 1994.