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No. 7 Baseball Faces Georgia State in Home-and-Home Series

Feb. 28, 2002

ATLANTA –

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Georgia Tech, the nation’s seventh-ranked team according to Baseball America, faces Georgia State in a two-game, home-and-home series this weekend. The two teams will square off at Tech’s Russ Chandler Stadium on Saturday at 1:30 p.m., and then meet on Sunday at Georgia State’s home field in Panthersville at 2 p.m. 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, and Tech’s record currently stands at 8-1. Georgia State enters the weekend at 4-4 following a pair of losses at Georgia Southern on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tech enters the 2002 season with 17 new players on its roster in addition to three new assistant coaches. Gone is the majority of the core of players – including first-round draft picks Mark Teixeira and Richard Lewis, among others – that helped the Yellow Jackets capture the 2000 Atlantic Coast Conference championship and advance to three NCAA Regionals in the last four years. Tech returns 13 letterwinners from last year’s team that went 41-20, including eight position players and five pitchers. The Yellow Jackets have just three seniors on the roster – shortstop Victor Menocal, third baseman Matthew Boggs and outfielder Wes Rynders.

SERIES VS. GEORGIA STATE

Georgia Tech owns a 39-5 record against Georgia State, in a series that dates back to 1971. The Yellow Jackets are 24-1 against the Panthers on Tech’s home field, including the last 21 games in a row. Tech is 15-4 in games played at Georgia State. Under Danny Hall, Georgia Tech is 16-1 against Georgia State, with the Panthers’ lone win coming in a 4-3 win in 2000.

ON THE HILL . . .

*Sophomore left hander Kyle Bakker (3-0, 0.43 ERA) will start the first game of the series on Saturday afternoon at Russ Chandler Stadium. Bakker was Tech’s No. 3 starter for much of the stretch run of the 2001 season before being sidelined with stiffness in his left arm for all of the Yellow Jackets’ postseason games. The big southpaw, who is the tallest player in the ACC at 6-9, has taken over as the No. 1 starter for Tech in 2002, and he has opened the season with consecutive wins over Georgia Southern, Tennessee Tech and Coastal Carolina, all teams that won games in the NCAA Tournament in 2001.

In eight career starts, Bakker is 7-1 with a 1.70 ERA in 53.0 IP (10 ER). His list of victories includes Georgia Southern (twice), Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Tennessee Tech and Coastal Carolina, all teams that won at least one game in the NCAA Regionals in 2001.

*Junior righty Jeff Watchko (2-1, 3.38 ERA) is scheduled to start on Sunday afternoon in the second game of the weekend at Panthersville. Watchko spent the last two seasons as Tech’s closer, compiling 12 saves and a 3.35 ERA in that capacity, before moving into a starting role this spring. He opened the season by earning a victory in his first start in nearly two years at Georgia Southern, and followed that with a six inning, one hit performance against Tennessee Tech. He suffered his first loss of the season last weekend against No. 9 South Carolina.

In four career starts, Watchko is 3-1 with a 3.54 ERA (11 ER in 28 IP with 23 K’s).

SHORT HOPS

* A quick glance at the Tech season statistics reveals that a trio of freshmen lead Tech in batting. Eric Patterson (.448), Clifton Remole (.423) and Brandon Boggs (.393) rank 1-2-3 on the team in batting average.

* Collectively, Tech’s seven freshmen position players are batting .355 (49-138) while Tech’s eight freshman pitchers have a 3.94 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 16 innings.

* 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 19-for-22 on the season.

* 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 16 batters in 81 innings (1.8 BB per 9 IP).

* Sophomore Kyle Bakker leads the Tech staff in K/BB ratio with 27 strikeouts and just one walk in 21 innings. Bakker’s career K/BB ratio stands at 76-10.

* Tech has used 14 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.

* 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.

BAKKER NAMED ACC PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Sophomore lefty Kyle Bakker was selected as the first ACC Player of the Week for the 2002 season following his performance at Georgia Southern on Feb. 9. The 6’9 southpaw tossed seven shutout innings, holding the Eagles to just four singles and no walks while striking out seven batters.

TECH PICKED FOURTH IN PRE-SEASON ACC POLL

The Atlantic Coast Conference’s nine head coaches selected Georgia Tech in fourth place in the conference in 2002. Tech tallied 56 points in the poll, just one point shy of third-place Wake Forest.

                   2002 ACC Pre-season Coaches Poll1.      Clemson (5)     772.      Florida State (4)       743.      Wake Forest     574.      GEORGIA TECH    565.      North Carolina  456.      NC State        337.      Duke    298.      Virginia        249.      Maryland        9

LARGEST FRESHMAN CLASS EVER AT TECH

The Yellow Jackets have 17 freshmen on the 2002 roster, the largest concentration of rookies on one team in school history. The previous high was 15, which occurred in 1982 (Jim Morris’ first season as head coach) and 1998 (which included last year’s senior class).

THREE NAMED TO PRE-SEASON ALL-AMERICA TEAMS

Three Yellow Jackets were named to pre-season All-America teams by various baseball publications prior to the start of the 2002 season. Junior catcher Tyler Parker was selected as a first-team pre-season All-America by both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. Senior shortstop Victor Menocal was a second-team pick by Collegiate Baseball, while sophomore outfielder Matt Murton was a third-team selection by Baseball America.

FRESHMAN CLASS RANKS NINTH

Tech’s rookie class for this season, which numbers 17 freshmen, was ranked as the ninth best recruiting class in the nation by Baseball America. Tech’s recruiting classes have been ranked among the top 16 in the country in each of the last six years, including the 1998 class featuring Mark Teixeira that was ranked No. 1 in the country.

Under the direction of recruiting coordinator Scott Stricklin, Tech signed 10 players in the early signing period last fall (see list on p. 3), including three players ranked among the nation’s top 25 high school prospects. Many major baseball publications feel that this class will once again rank in the top 15 in the nation.

NEW FACES

In addition to 17 new players on this year’s team, Georgia Tech welcomes three new assistant coaches to the program this season. Bobby Moranda joins the Tech staff as Associate Head Coach and Pitching Coach after spending the last six years at Wake Forest and helping the Demon Deacons win three ACC titles in the last four years. Moranda, who also worked at Virginia, is a 12-year veteran of the ACC.

Scott Stricklin joins the staff as Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator after spending the last two seasons at Vanderbilt. Stricklin, who played for head coach Danny Hall at Kent State, was previously on Tech’s from 1998-99 as a volunteer coach.

Former Wake Forest All-America first baseman Jon Palmieri is in his first season at Georgia Tech as a volunteer coach.

NEW HOME OF THE YELLOW JACKETS

Russ Chandler Stadium, the home of the Yellow Jackets for the last 16 seasons and affectionately known as the “Rusty C,” has a completely new look this season. A new era in the stadium’s history begins this spring as the old facility was demolished to make way for a state-of-the-art, $9.7 million, 4,157 seat stadium in the exact same location. The architectural firm of HOK – who designed Camden Yards, Jacobs Field, and Pacific Bell Park, among others – designed the new Russ Chandler Stadium and construction on this new facility was completed in less than eight months.

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