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On-Tech Circle: Georgia Tech (32-20) vs. Georgia (18-31)

May 13, 2013

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Pitching Matchup: Josh Heddinger, RHP (2-0, 4.99) vs. Bryan Benzor, RHP (3-2, 4.70)

No. 25 Georgia Tech has revenge on its mind and momentum on its side when it meets up with rival Georgia in a winner-take-all game for season-series bragging rights tonight at Russ Chandler Stadium. First pitch is at 7:30 p.m.

The Yellow Jackets look to ride the emotional high of their weekend series win over top-ranked North Carolina. The series saw three days of drama in which each team scored 15 runs and the three games were decided by a total of four runs, with two walk-off hits. On Friday night, Tech’s Buck Farmer and Carolina’s Kent Emanuel hooked up in a dandy. The Tar Heels jumped out to a 3-0 lead after 2 1/2, but then the Jackets rebounded, putting up a four-spot in the third, using a walk to Matt Gonzalez, back-to-back triples by Thomas Smith and Kyle Wren then a two-run homer by Zane Evans. After Carolina tied the game, the pitchers settled in. Farmer and Daniel Palka retired the final 11 Tar Heels, setting the stage for Mott Hyde, who launched a 3-1 Emanuel pitch over the wall in left with one out in the ninth to complete the 5-4 Jackets win. It was Hyde’s first career walk-off hit. On Saturday, Dusty Isaacs and Benton Moss put on another pitching clinic. Isaacs threw six innings, allowing only two runs and seven hits, but Moss was a little better, throwing a two-hit shutout over eight. Palka blasted a homer in the ninth but that was all the Jackets could muster, dropping a 3-1 decision. On Sunday, the Jackets put on their gutsiest comeback of the season, scoring six unanswered runs to rally from an 8-3 seventh-inning deficit, to win 9-8 in 11 innings. Brandon Thomas, Evans and Palka each had RBI singles in the ninth to send the game to extras — Sam Dove nearly gave Tech the game-winner in the frame, but was robbed by UNC left fielder Parks Jordan. In the 11th, Evans, who had thrown three innings of scoreless relief, drove in the game-winning and series-clinching run with a single to short left. Wren, who had walked to lead off, slid in barely ahead of Jordan’s throw and moved to second when Thomas followed with a base-on-balls, setting Evans. The win clinched Tech’s fourth straight series win over North Carolina and was the Tar Heels’ first series loss since Tech topped them last season in Chapel Hill.

The Bulldogs ran into a buzz saw in Columbia, S.C., over the weekend, getting swept by No. 15 South Carolina. Georgia scored six runs in the entire series and never led for a full inning, as on Friday and Sunday, the Gamecocks answered in the bottom half of both innings Georgia took the lead. In the opener, second baseman Nelson Ward homered leading off the game, one of his team-high two hits, but USC answered with two in the first on its way to scoring seven straight runs in a 7-2 win. On Saturday, UGA didn’t get a hit until one out in the seventh, when shortstop Kyle Farmer tripled, one of his two hits on the day. The Bulldogs managed three for the game, including a seventh-inning RBI double by catcher Brett DeLoach, falling 7-1. On Sunday, Georgia got a series-high three runs and nine hits and led 2-0 after a two-run third inning. But South Carolina scored three in its half of the third and added three in the fourth. They’d pull away, 8-3. Third baseman Curt Powell went three-for-three with a run scored, right fielder Heath Holder also had two hits and left fielder Hunter Cole drove in two runs with a two-run double for Georgia, who is 2-3 heading into tonight’s game, the finale of their season-high eight-game road trip (the final two games of the series with Tennessee were postponed due to rain).

The Jackets are 157-199-2 all-time against Georgia in a series that dates back to 1898, and are 89-68-1 at home. Under Danny Hall, Tech is 40-30, 21-6 at Russ Chandler Stadium. They are winners of seven straight and eight of 10 in home games in the series.

Jackets fans can watch the game on CSS or the webcast on ESPN3, with Matt Stewart and Randy Carroll calling the action and can hear every pitch on WREK 91.1 FM in Atlanta, with Nolan Alexander and Wade Rogers on the call. Live stats are available on Gametracker on RamblinWreck.com.

Let’s play ball!

Last Time We Met: Georgia Tech absorbed a 17-0 drubbing at the hands of the Bulldogs in the Kauffman Tires Spring Baseball Classic for Kids at Turner Field. It was Tech’s worst loss in the series with UGA under Danny Hall. The Jackets managed only five hits, all of them singles, and were outhit, 23-5. A five-run third blew open a 2-0 game and all but one of Georgia Tech’s eight pitchers gave up at least a run. Kyle Wren had two hits, extending his streak to nine games. Brandon Thomas, Zane Evans and Mott Hyde also had one hit each.

Pound-For-Pound: Zane Evans and Daniel Palka are best known for their ability to pound pitching and both did that over the weekend, as each homered. But they also showed they could pound the strike zone. Together, Evans and Palka combined to not only shut out the Tar Heels, the second-best hitting team in the nation coming in, over six innings but also no-hit them. The duo faced 19 batters, one over the minimum, with the one batter reaching, via an Evans walk. Both Palka and Evans threw three innings and each recorded a win in the series, Palka winning Friday, throwing two scoreless frames in relief of Buck Farmer, and Evans getting the ‘W’ Sunday, throwing three innings of scoreless, hitless relief. While it’s no mystery that Evans can close — he’s 12th all-time in school history with 10 saves — his ability to go three innings, showed he’s not your typical closer. It was his longest appearance of the season (his long had been 2 2/3 April 26 at Clemson) and came almost a year to the day of his longest career relief appearance, when he threw 5.0 innings at NC State on March 10, 2012. Evans earned two three-inning saves last season, in the ACC Tournament Championship game and in the NCAA Tournament against College of Charleston. Perhaps a bigger surprise was Palka. The lefty power hitter, who added a scoreless inning on Sunday to his two-inning stint on Friday, has made only four appearances, but has been overpowering. In those appearances, covering 4 2/3 innings, he has struck out four and allowed one hit. He’s held opposing hitters to a .067 average and comes into the game having retired 13 straight hitters.

UNC’s Mr. Hyde: It shouldn’t be surprising that shortstop Mott Hyde fattened his average over the weekend. The junior shortstop has feasted on Tar Heel pitching throughout his career. He came into the series hitting .375 (9-for-24) — only Palka’s .429 average (9-for-21) was better amongst Yellow Jackets with at least five ABs. Facing a North Carolina staff that ranked third in the nation in ERA, Hyde went went 3-for-9, to raise his career average against them to .364 (12-for-33), passing Palka for tops on the team (he went 2-for-11 and is now hitting .344 career vs. UNC). Included in those hits were a pair of home runs, including the walk-off winner Friday and a two-run shot in the seventh that jump-started Tech’s rally from 8-3 down Sunday. Hyde had one homer all season heading into last weekend’s series.

Tech-nicalities: Georgia Tech has scored at least five runs in 21 of its 27 meetings with Georgia at Russ Chandler Stadium in the Danny Hall Era. The Yellow Jackets are 18-3 in those games and have won seven straight and nine of the last 10 times they’ve done so.

On Deck: Georgia Tech has a quick turnaround, starting its series-ending three-game series against No. 18 Miami in Coral Gables, on Thursday. Georgia also begins its final regular-season series on Thursday, hosting No. 19 Florida.

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