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No. 8 Tech Baseball Hosts No. 6 North Carolina

May 16, 2002

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ATLANTA–Georgia Tech, the nation’s eighth-ranked team according to USA Today/Baseball Weekly, hosts sixth-ranked North Carolina for a three-game Atlantic Coast Conference series this weekend at Russ Chandler Stadium.

The series, the last of a seven game homestand for the Yellow Jackets to close out the 2002 regular season, will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday. Saturday’s game will start at 1 p.m. and will be televised live on the ACC Regional Network ( Fox Sports Net South, Sunshine, Comcast Sports Net), while Sunday’s finale will begin at 1:30 p.m. Live radio broadcasts for the entire series will be available on WREK-Radio (91.1 FM in Atlanta) and on the internet at www.ramblinwreck.com, while live scoring and boxscores for all of Georgia Tech’s games in 2002 is available at www.ramblinwreck.com.

The Yellow Jackets stand at 42-11 overall and 12-8 in the Atlantic Coast Conference after taking two of three games last weekend from defending national champion Miami. North Carolina enters the weekend series with a 38-15 overall record and a 16-5 mark in the ACC after sweeping Duke last weekend.

Clemson (16-5 ACC) and North Carolina (16-5) stand just ahead of Wake Forest (15-5) in the ACC standings, while Florida State (15-6) and Georgia Tech round out the top five. All five schools are ranked among the top 15 in the nation this week.

The Tech offense is led by shortstop Victor Mencoal, who leads the squad in batting (.394), hits (85) and doubles (18). Outfielder Jeremy Slayden leads the team with 15 home runs, while leadoff hitter Eric Patterson leads the team in on base percentage (.468), stolen bases (32) and runs scored (60). As a team, Tech is batting .332 and averaging 8.6 runs per game.

The Tech pitching corps is led by a duo of sophomores in southpaw Kyle Bakker (9-2, 3.38 ERA) and righty Brian Burks (9-4, 3.70), as well as junior righty Jeff Watchko (9-1, 3.38).

SERIES VS. NORTH CAROLINA

Georgia Tech leads North Carolina, 46-41, in a series that dates to 1901, including a 17-12 mark since 1994 under head coach Danny Hall. The Yellow Jackets are 24-19 against the Tar Heels in Atlanta. Tech has won seven of the last nine meetings dating back to the 1999 season.

Last year in Chapel Hill, North Carolina won two of three meetings (10-5, 5-19 and 11-10) in the final weekend of the regular season. Two years ago in Atlanta, Tech swept three games from the 2nd-ranked Tar Heels (5-4, 16-3, and 8-7).

ON THE HILL . . .

As a staff, Georgia Tech’s starting pitchers are a collective 32-6 with a 3.46 ERA in 53 games this season, while walking just 1.8 batters per nine innings. Tech starting pitchers are holding opponents to a .261 batting average.

Sophomore southpaw Kyle Bakker (9-2, 3.31 ERA) will start the first game of the series of Friday night, making his 15th consecutive series opening start. Bakker will be looking for his 10th win of the season.

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 in 2002, and he has wins over Georgia Southern, Tennessee Tech, Coastal Carolina and Winthrop – all teams that won games in the 2001 NCAA Tournament – in addition to Georgia State, Gardner-Webb, NC State, Duke and Maryland.

In 18 career starts, Bakker is 12-3 with a 3.30 ERA in 122.2 IP (45 ER). His list of victories over the last two years includes Georgia Southern (twice), Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Tennessee Tech, Coastal Carolina and Winthrop, all teams that won at least one game in the NCAA Regionals in 2001.

This season at Russ Chandler Stadium, Bakker is 5-1 in seven starts. In ten career starts at home, Bakker is 8-1 with a 3.19 ERA (26 ER in 73.1 IP).

Despite his success this season, Bakker is winless in his last four starts after going 9-0 in his first 10 starts. In those last four starts against Florida State, Virginia and Clemson, Bakker is 0-2 with a 5.19 ERA (15 ER in 26.0 IP). He was a hard-luck loser at Florida State (4 ER in 8 IP) and against Virginia (3 ER in 8 IP) before struggling to the shortest start of his career on May 4 against Clemson (5 ER in 3.2 IP). He bounced back with a solid effort against Miami (3 ER in 6.1 IP) as Tech rallied for a 7-6 win in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The starters for the second and third games of the series on Saturday and Sunday are TBA.

SHORT HOPS

Through 53 games, head coach Danny Hall has used 48 different starting lineups.

Tech currently ranks third in the ACC in team ERA (4.09), less than half a run behind leader Clemson. The Yellow Jackets have never led the conference in that category since joining the ACC for the 1980 season.

Tech is 29-3 at the new Russ Chandler Stadium in 2002, outscoring its opponents 292-137.

Tech’s 14-1 mark to start the season was its best since opening the 1997 season with a 15-1 record. The school 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 9-3 in games decided by one run and 16-4 in games decided by three runs or less in 2002.

The Yellow Jackets are a perfect 5-0 in extra inning games this season.

New pitching coach Bobby Moranda has stressed the importance of throwing strikes. Those efforts have been displayed this season where Tech pitchers have walked 126 batters in 473.2 innings (2.4 per 9 IP).

Four freshmen – Eric Patterson (2B), Brandon Boggs (CF), Clifton Remole (1B), and Jeremy Slayden (DH) – were in the starting lineup on opening day. Additionally, Mike Nickeas (C, 1B, 3B), Jake Hall (3B), and Garrett Groce (OF) have all started at least one game in 2002, raising the total number of freshmen who have started to seven. A total of 15 freshmen have seen game action this season.

OFFENSE HEATS UP

As the weather has warmed up during the month of May, so has the Georgia Tech offense. In eight games in May, Georgia Tech is batting .397 as a team (125-for-315) and has scored 91 runs (11.4 per game). Those numbers are made even more impressive given that seven of those eight games have come against the No. 1 ranked team in the country (Clemson), the defending national champions (Miami) and a College World Series participant from last year (Georgia).

VERSUS THE STATE OF GEORGIA

Georgia Tech owns an 11-1 mark against its in-state rivals this season. Tech’s lone loss came at Georgia on Mar. 26. The Yellow Jackets are 4-0 against Georgia Southern, 2-0 against both Mercer and Georgia State, and 3-1 against Georgia.

INSIDE THE “RPI”

Although the NCAA does not release the official Ratings Percentage Index that the baseball committee uses to determine the tournament field of 64 and the regional seedings, mathematician Boyd Nation does his best to reproduce the RPI each week throughout the season. His “pseudo-RPI” numbers are calculated using the formula that the NCAA used during the 2001 season.

BOYD'S WORLD PSEUDO-RPI (as of 5/12)1. Clemson              .682    11. LSU                 .6232. Wake Forest          .664    12. North Carolina      .6203. Florida State        .640    13. La.-Lafayette       .6134. Georgia Tech         .637    14. Georgia             .6105. Stanford             .634    15. James Madison       .6076. South Carolina       .6307. Alabama              .629    38. NC State            .5728. Florida              .627    41. Virginia            .5709. Houston              .626    55. Maryland            .55710.Rice                 .626    90. Duke                .529

GEORGIA TECH vs. RPI Top 10: 2-7 Upcoming Opponents: GEORGIA TECH vs. RPI Top 25: 10-9 North Carolina (#12) GEORGIA TECH vs. RPI Top 50: 15-10 GEORGIA TECH vs. RPI Top 100: 21-11

SCHEDULE ODDITIES

Due to an unusual conference schedule in 2002, Georgia Tech played its final ACC road series the weekend of Apr. 19 at Florida State. The Yellow Jackets began the season with four of their first five league series on the road. Tech wrapped up the regular season with three straight ACC home series against Virginia, Clemson and North Carolina, in addition to a non-conference home series with Miami.

SECOND LONGEST HOME WIN STREAK

Georgia Tech had its 27-game home winning streak snapped on Apr. 26 against Virginia in what was the second longest such streak in school history. The Yellow Jackets won their first 22 games in the new Russ Chandler Stadium this season and did not lose at home from April 28, 2001 through April 26, 2002.

Listed below are Tech’s best home winning streaks:

Georgia Tech HOME WIN STREAKS1.      29 games        1989-902.      27 games        2001-20023.      23 games        1990-914.      21 games        1992

SECOND BEST RECORD AFTER 53 GAMES

Georgia Tech owns a 42-11 record after 53 games, tied for the second best record in school history through that number of games. Listed below are Tech’s best records through 53 games and what happened in the next three games:

Best Georgia Tech RECORDS AFTER 53 GAMES        Record  Year    Next Three Games1.      43-10   1993    2-1 (45-11)2.      42-11   1987    3-0 (45-11)        42-11   1997    2-1 (44-12)        42-11   2002    ????5.      41-12   1992    2-1 (43-13)        41-12   1994    2-1 (43-13)        40-13   2000    2-1 (42-14)Note: Tech went 31-6 for the entire 1971 season.

SPEED ON THE BASES

With the loss of many of the top power hitters from last year’s team, Georgia Tech has relied more on speed this season. 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 Tech now stands at 110-for-140 (78.6%) for the season. Tech stole just 68 bases during the entire 2002 season.

The Yellow Jackets are stealing an average of 2.08 bases per game this spring. The Tech record for stolen bases per game is 2.21, which was established in 1987 when the Jackets stole a school-record 144 bases.

Tech has stolen 100 bases as a team for the 10th time in school history. The 110 steals currently ranks as the sixth highest single season total in Tech history.

WINNING THE CLOSE ONES

One of the main reasons for Georgia Tech’s early exit from the NCAA Tournament last year was the struggles of the Yellow Jackets in close games. Tech posted just a 3-7 mark in one-run games and a 10-12 record in games decided by three runs or less during the 2001 season. This year, Tech is 9-3 in one-run games and 16-4 in games decided by three runs or less. The Yellow Jackets are 5-0 in extra inning games this season.

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