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No. 9 Baseball Opens New Stadium Against Tennessee Tech

Feb. 14, 2002

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Georgia Tech, the nation’s ninth-ranked team according to Baseball America, officially opens its new, $9.7 million ballpark this weekend then the Yellow Jackets host Tennessee Tech for a three-game series. The series begins on Friday at 3 p.m., and continues on Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. each day.

To mark the first regular-season games in the new Russ Chandler Stadium, commerative baseballs will be given to the first 1,000 fans on Friday, and commemorative bats will be given to the first 1,000 fans on Saturday.

Friday’s game can be heard on WREK-Radio (91.1 FM) in Atlanta, or on the internet at www.wrek.org.

Georgia Tech is 2-0 on the young season following a two-game sweep of Georgia Southern, the pre-season favorite to win the Southern Conference in 2002, last weekend in Statesboro. The Yellow Jackets outscored the Eagles, 17-6, in the two game series, running Tech’s streak to 15 straight wins over Georgia Southern.

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. TENNESSEE TECH

Georgia Tech is 5-1 all-time against Tennessee Tech, including a 4-1 mark at Russ Chandler Stadium. The two schools first met in 1985, with the Yellow Jackets sweeping a doubleheader in Atlanta, 10-0 and 8-0. Tennessee Tech’s lone win in the series came in 1989 when the Golden Eagles took a 7-6 decision in 11 innings. Tech posted wins in 1990 (18-3) and 1991 (15-6) in Atlanta.

The last meeting in the series came in the first round of the 1997 NCAA Mideast Regional in Starkville, Miss., when the top-seeded Yellow Jackets downed sixth-seeded Tennessee Tech, 5-0. In that game, Georgia Tech’s Kris Wilson, now of the Kansas City Royals, tossed a complete game one-hitter. The lone hit he surrendered, which didn’t leave the infield, came with two outs in the ninth inning. Jase Wrigley followed Wilson’s performance with a two-hit, 8-0 shutout of Southwestern Louisiana the following day.

ON THE HILL . . .

*Sophomore left hander Kyle Bakker (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will start the series opener on Friday afternoon at Georgia Southern. 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 opened the season with seven shutout innings in a win over Georgia Southern last Saturday.

In six career starts, Bakker is 5-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 39.0 IP (9 ER). His list of victories includes Georgia Southern (twice), Auburn, Clemson and Florida State.

*Junior righty Jeff Watchko (1-0, 3.60 ERA) will start on Saturday afternoon in the second game of the series. 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 last weekend at Georgia Southern, allowing two runs in five innings of work.

In three career starts, Watchko is 2-0 with a 3.71 ERA (7 ER in 17 IP with 18 K’s).

* Junior right hander Philip Perry (first appearance in 2002, 6-2, 4.37 ERA in career) is the scheduled starter for Sunday afternoon’s series finale. Perry, along with Watchko, ranks as the senior member of the Tech pitching corps that features nine rookie pitchers. Perry started five games in 2001, posting a 2-2 record in those appearances, but made just one start after March 21 due to recurring and nagging injuries. In his final appearance of 2001, he got a no decision against NC State in the ACC Tournament, holding the Wolfpack to three runs in 7.2 innings of work.

SHORT HOPS

* Tech opened the 2002 season showing off its team speed. The Yellow Jackets were a perfect 11-for-11 in the stolen base department in two games at Georgia Southern.

* New Tech pitching coach Bobby Moranda has stressed the importance of throwing strikes. Those efforts were displayed last weekend in Statesboro when Tech pitchers walked just two batters in 18 innings.

* 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.

* 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.

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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