LiveTotalCast! Tech vs. Georgia, Tuesday, 7 p.m.
ATLANTA (April 24) — After seeing its 15-game winning streak snapped last weekend in Tallahassee, the 5th-ranked Georgia Tech baseball team opens a key four-game homestand this week.
Tech (34-10, 14-4 ACC) remains in first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season standings despite dropping two of three contests to Florida State. The Seminoles (11-4 ACC) and Clemson (11-4) are currently tied for second place in what is shaping up as a three-team race for the ACC regular season title. Wake Forest (13-8), North Carolina (8-10) and NC State (8-10) are all but eliminated from a first place finish in the conference.
This week’s schedule at Russ Chandler Stadium includes the final game of a four-game set with rival Georgia on Tuesday at 7 p.m. and a weekend ACC series against 7th-ranked Clemson on Friday at 7 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Yellow Jackets are in the midst of a challenging four-week stretch to close out the regular season. That includes last weekend’s series at Florida State and the upcoming series with Clemson, as well as trips to No. 11 Miami and No. 16 Wake Forest.
“We’ll do everything that we can to win the Georgia game and try to even up that series,” said Tech head coach Danny Hall. “They had a good weekend and they are playing well in the SEC, so playing against our arch-rival will make for a great way to open an important week.
“Clemson is another major test for us in the ACC. They have a great team and seem to be playing very well. I like the fact that we are playing them here at home, but they will challenge us every way that Florida State did.”
Hall will turn to senior southpaw Ben Sheeter (Lilburn, Ga.), 2-2, 5.40 ERA, on Tuesday night against the Bulldogs. Sheeter pitched well in a start at Georgia on Mar. 14, allowing four runs in eight innings, but did figure in the decision as Tech won in 11 innings. Sheeter has settled into his role as a midweek starter, picking up victories in each of his last two starts against The Citadel and Georgia Southern.
In the weekend series against the Tigers, junior southpaw Cory Vance (Vandalia, Ohio), 8-2, 3.04, will get the starting nod in Friday night’s opener. Vance won each of his first five starts against ACC competition before suffering the loss last Friday night at Florida State. Vance leads the Yellow Jackets staff in victories, innings pitched (71) and strikeouts (85).
For Saturday’s and Sunday’s contests, Hall will turn to a pair of righty sophomores in Rhett Parrott (Dalton, Ga.), 6-2, 3.17, and Steve Kelly (Fairfield, Ohio), 6-2, 4.23. Both Parrott and Kelly have been in the weekend rotation in Tech’s last four ACC series, and both have been very effective. Parrott has allowed just one earned run in his last three starts (0.45 ERA), while Kelly is 5-1 in his last six starts.
Key to Tech’s recent success where the Jackets have won 25 of their last 29 games has been the resurgence of the pitching staff. While Vance, Parrott, Kelly and Sheeter have solidified the starting rotation, freshmen Jeff Watchko (Roswell, Ga.), 3-0, 2.61, and Philip Perry (Marietta, Ga.), sophomore Kevin Cameron (Joliet, Ill.), 3-1, 3.89, and junior Andy Mitchell (Conyers, Ga.), 3-0, 4.22, have all provided consistent results out of the bullpen. Last weekend at Florida State, the Georgia Tech bullpen did not allow an earned run in 6.1 innings of work.
“Those three guys – Vance, Parrott and Kelly – have been very consistent the last few weeks, and that’s what you need from your starting pitchers,” said Hall. “The guys in the bullpen are all throwing very good and we need them to continue to work hard to get the job done.”
At the plate, the Jackets’ lineup continues to be anchored by third baseman Mark Teixeira (Severna Park, Md.), .460, 13 HR, 55 RBI, and leadoff hitter Richard Lewis (Marietta, Ga.), .458, 3 HR, 41 RBI. Teixeira and Lewis rank first and second in the ACC batting race, and both players are among the top 10 in the nation in batting as well.
Sophomore Victor Menocal (Gainesville, Ga.), .339, 2 HR, 23 RBI, is the everyday starter at shortstop, and he has seen his average climb above the .300 mark by hitting safely in 17 of the last 18 games and batting .436 in that stretch.
Junior Derik Goffena (Sidney, Ohio), .311, 1 HR, 40 RBI, who has taken over as the primary first baseman, and junior Bryan Prince (Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.), .378, 5 HR, 52 RBI, who sees the majority of the time behind the plate, have been two of Tech’s hotter hitters of late. Goffena had a career-long 20-game hitting streak come to an end on Sunday at Florida State, while Prince is batting .475 with 20 RBI in the last 10 games. Freshman Tyler Parker (Marietta, Ga.), .240, 10 HR, 36 RBI, has seen time both at first base and as a catcher, while handling designated hitter duties on days not playing the field.
The Tech outfield consists of juniors Jason Basil (West Chester, Ohio), .323, 5 HR, 41 RBI, and Brad Stockton (Marietta, Ga.), .304, 3 HR, 19 RBI, in left and right field respectively, while sophomore Wes Rynders (Marietta, Ga.), .264, 20 RBI, is the everyday center fielder.
While Hall is dissatisfied with dropping two games at Florida State last weekend, he was pleased with his team’s effort against the Seminoles.
“I am disappointed that we didn’t win the series, because that was our goal,” said Hall. “I am glad that we did bounce back Saturday night after losing on Friday. That showed that our guys are very competitive and that they could handle the adversity of losing on Friday. On Sunday, we just didn’t do enough of the little things to be able to win a close ball game.
“The thing that we found out is that we do have a good team and that we can play with anybody in the country. We just need to get a little bit better each week so when it comes down to the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Regionals we are playing our best baseball.”
SERIES VS. GEORGIA, CLEMSON
Tuesday night’s meeting between the rival Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets will be the final of four meetings between the two schools in 2000. Georgia won the first two games of the series on Feb. 29 in Athens (10-1) and Mar. 1 in Atlanta (13-5) before Tech rallied for an 8-5 win in Athens on Mar. 14. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series, 178-135-2, however the Jackets have had the upper hand in recent years. Tech has won or split the annual series every year since 1987, and the Yellow Jackets could extend that streak to 14 consecutive years with a victory on Tuesday night.
Clemson leads Georgia Tech, 80-77-3, in a series that dates back to 1902. Overall, the Yellow Jackets own a 57-36-2 record against the Tigers in Atlanta, including a three-game sweep at Russ Chandler Stadium in 1998. Tech actually took four straight meetings in 1998 after picking up a victory in the ACC Tournament, but the Tigers ended that four-game winning streak with a three-game sweep in Clemson last year.
LEWIS, TEIXEIRA INVITED TO TEAM USA TRIALS
Sophomores Richard Lewis and Mark Teixeira were among 20 college players invited to participate in the 2000 USA Baseball National Team Trials that will be held in Tuscon, Ariz., June 16-21. The National Team will be selected from a pool of 35-40 players at the trials, and USA Baseball will announce the names of the remaining players to be invited by the end of May. Once selected, the National Team will tour the United States to play exhibition games against the Japan National Team during June and July and will travel to The Netherlands for the Haarlem Baseball Week in August.
HALL APPROACHES 500
Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall enters this week’s action just five wins shy of 500 for his career. Now in his 13th year as a head coach at the Division I level, Hall’s overall record stands at 495-247 (.667 winning percentage). He is now in his seventh season at Georgia Tech, where his record stands at 287-130 (.688). The 1997 ACC and National Coach of the Year, Hall’s Georgia Tech teams have averaged 42 wins per year.