March 25, 2002
ATLANTA Georgia Tech, the nation’s sixth-ranked team according to Collegiate Baseball, faces arch-rival Georgia in a midweek home-and-home series. The Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs will play at Foley Field in Athens at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, and at Russ Chandler Stadium in Atlanta at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. Live radio broadcasts for both games can be heard on WREK (91.1 FM in Atlanta) and on the internet at www.wrek.org, and live scoring and boxscores for all of Georgia Tech’s games will be available at www.ramblinwreck.com.
The Yellow Jackets rattled off seven straight wins to open the season, the team’s best start since opening 1997 with 10 straight wins, before dropping their first game of the season. Tech’s record currently stands at 18-3 after winning four straight games last week against Eastern Kentucky and Gardner-Webb. Georgia is 12-5 following a three-game sweep at Vanderbilt last weekend.
Following this week’s games against the Bulldogs, the Yellow Jackets will continue Atlantic Coast Conference play this weekend at NC State. Gametimes at Doak Field and Raleigh are 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.
The Yellow Jackets are led offensively by senior shortstop Victor Menocal, who leads the team in batting average (.430), hits (37), runs scored (27) and doubles (8). Junior catcher Tyler Parker leads the team in home runs (6) and RBI (30). The pitching corps is led by a duo of sophomores in southpaw Kyle Bakker (6-0, 2.62 ERA) and righty Brian Burks (5-1, 2.63 ERA).
SERIES VS. GEORGIA
Georgia leads Georgia Tech, 180-134-2, in a series that dates back to 1898. The Yellow Jackets are just 47-105 in games played in Athens, but own a 76-64-1 mark against the Bulldogs in Atlanta. Tech is 19-12 against Georgia under head coach Danny Hall.
The series has been dominated recently by Georgia Tech, however. The Yellow Jackets went 14 straight years in which they had either won or split the regular-season four-game series before the Bulldogs won the 2001 series, 2-1. The fourth game of the 2001 series was rained out in Atlanta. Georgia then capped the 2001 season by claiming a 13-5 win in an elimination game of the NCAA Athens Regional last May. Since 1987, Tech is 38-20 against Georgia.
ON THE HILL . . .
*Sophomore right hander Brian Burks (5-1, 2.63 ERA) will start on Tuesday in Athens, in what will be his fifth start and 12th total appearance of the 2002 season.
* Burks is 4-0 with a 2.35 ERA in four previous starts in 2002, picking up wins over Wofford, Virginia Commonwealth, Winthrop and Eastern Kentucky.
* In seven relief appearances this season, Burks is 1-1 with three saves and a 2.63 ERA.
* Burks leads the Tech pitching staff in opponent batting average (.215), appearances (11) and saves (3).
* Burks struggled in three relief appearances against Georgia in 2001, allowing seven earned runs in 2.2 innings (2.2 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 0 K).
* Wednesday’s starter is TBA.
* Through 21 games, head coach Danny Hall has used 20 different starting lineups. The only repeat in the starting lineup came in Tech’s two losses at Wake Forest.
* Through the first month of the season, Tech leads the ACC in team ERA (3.25) and ranks fourth in the league in team batting (.322).
* Tech is a perfect 13-0 at the new Russ Chandler Stadium in 2002, outscoring its opponents 135-46. Dating back to last season, the Yellow Jackets currently own an 18-game winning streak.
* Tech’s 14-1 mark to start the season was its best since opening the 1997 season with a 15-1 record. The record for most wins with only one loss came in 1992 when the Yellow Jackets opened 24-1.
*After posting a 3-7 record in one-run games in 2001, Tech is 3-1 in games decided by one run and 6-1 in games decided by three runs or less in 2002.
* A quick glance at the Tech season statistics reveals that a trio of freshmen rank among the team’s top five in batting. Second baseman Eric Patterson (.403) is second, right fielder Jeremy Slayden (.357) is third, and first baseman Clifton Remole (.333) is fifth.
* Collectively, Tech’s seven freshmen position players are batting .327 (103-for-315). Tech’s top three freshmen hitters – Patterson, Remole and Slayden – are batting .365 (73-for-200).
* Georgia Tech opened the 2002 campaign with seven straight wins, the Yellow Jackets’ best start to a season since opening with a 10-0 record in 1997. The Tech record for most wins to start a season came in 1987 when the Yellow Jackets opened the season 16-0.
* Tech has opened the 2002 season showing off its team speed. The Yellow Jackets were a perfect 11-for-11 in the stolen base department in the first two games of the season at Georgia Southern and stand at 47-for-54 (87.0%) on the season. Freshman Eric Patterson leads the team in stolen bases (10-for-13).
* An opening day record crowd of 1,814 attended the first game at the new Russ Chandler Stadium on Feb. 15 against Tennessee Tech. A total 4,828 fans attended the three-game series, making it the largest three-game attendance for a series before April in Georgia Tech history. It was the second-largest three-game attendance figure for a non-conference series in school history.
* New Tech pitching coach Bobby Moranda has stressed the importance of throwing strikes. Those efforts have been displayed early in the season where Tech pitchers have walked 49 batters in 188.1 innings (2.3 BB per 9 IP).
* Sophomore Kyle Bakker leads the Tech staff in K/BB ratio with 53 strikeouts and just seven walks in 48 innings. Bakker’s career K/BB ratio stands at 6.4 to 1.
* Tech has used 15 different pitchers already this season after having a total of 11 different pitchers see action during the 2001 season. The most pitchers that Tech has used in any one season prior to this season was 13 in both 1985 and 1996.
* Four freshmen – Eric Patterson (2B), Brandon Boggs (CF), Clifton Remole (1B) and Jeremy Slayden (DH) – were in the starting lineup for opening day. Mike Nickeas (3B) started the second game of the series at Georgia Southern, raising the total number of freshmen to start in 2002 to five. A total of 15 freshmen have seen game action so far this season, while seven different rookie position players have made at least one start.
* Tech hit back-to-back-to-back home runs in the fifth inning against Georgia Southern on Feb. 10. Jason Perry, Tyler Parker and Jeremy Slayden all blasted solo shots to open the inning. The last time the Yellow Jackets accomplished that feat came in 2000 when Brad Stockton, Mark Teixeira and Bryan Prince homered consecutively at Wake Forest.
MENOCAL ASSUMES CLOSER’S ROLE
With the move of junior Jeff Watchko – Tech’s closer for the last two seasons – to a starting role, head coach Danny Hall was in search of a new stopper out of the bullpen this spring. Hall may have found that man in his starting shortstop, Victor Menocal.
An accomplished pitcher in high school who has never pitched in college, Menocal approached the coaching staff about helping Tech on the mound during fall practice. Under the tutelage of new pitching coach Bobby Moranda, Menocal has worked hard to hone his skills as a late inning reliever.
The senior from Gainesville, Ga., assumed the closer’s role last week in grand fashion, working a scoreless ninth inning in three of Tech’s four wins last week. He earned his first career save on Mar. 19 against Eastern Kentucky. With Tech leading 6-5, Menocal entered the game with no outs and the bases loaded in the top of the ninth inning. He worked out of the jam by getting a strikeout and inducing a double play ground ball to earn the save.
For the season, Menocal has a 0.00 ERA in five appearances. Opponents are batting just .067 against him.
NOW PITCHING, A SHORTSTOP?
Not to be outdone by teammate Victor Menocal, junior Chris Goodman – another player who has been a shortstop in his collegiate career – has been very effective off the mound this season. Goodman, who sat out the 2001 season after transferring from NC State, was expected to be Tech’s backup shortstop this season. Like Menocal, he approached the coaching staff in the fall about helping off the mound and the results have been so good that he has all but given up his duties as an infielder.
Goodman is 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA in eight appearances this spring. He earned a win in his first collegiate start last Sunday against Gardner-Webb (7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 4 K). He has a lively arm (topping out in the low 90’s), and has displayed near pinpoint control (just 2 BB in 16.2 innings).
RED CROSS UPDATE
* Junior RHP Philip Perry has not pitched since making his first start of the season on Feb. 17 against Tennessee Tech due to strained ligaments in his pitching arm. He has returned to throwing in the bullpen, and he could return to active duty in the upcoming week.
* Junior 1B/OF Jason Perry continues to nurse a sprained ankle suffered in practice on Mar. 2. He missed four games due to the injury, and he has been limited to just DH duty since the injury.
HOME SWEET HOME
Georgia Tech has opened its new ballpark in grand fashion, posting a perfect 13-0 record in the new Russ Chandler Stadium this season. In those home games, the Yellow Jackets are batting .346 and averaging 10.4 runs per game. The Tech pitching staff has a 2.75 ERA and is holding opponents to just a .245 batting average.
Dating back to the 2001 season, Tech currently owns an 18-game winning streak. Tech’s last loss at home was a 6-2 decision to Florida State on April 29, 2001.