|In 48 games this season, Prince has a .376 batting average with 13 doubles, six home runs and a rousing 55 runs batted in.
ATLANTA (May 1) – Some baseball cleanup batters deal with the pressure of the assignment better than others. Georgia Tech’s Bryan Prince doesn’t deal with it at all. He’s too busy smashing line drives off the left field fence – or over it.
In 48 games this season, 27 of them as the No. 4 man in the batting order, Prince has a .376 batting average with 13 doubles, six home runs and a rousing 55 runs batted in. Talk about clutch hitting! Prince is batting .406 (39-for-96) with men in scoring position. He’s among the Atlantic Coast Conference leaders in a number of offensive categories, including RBI, batting average, hits (71) and slugging percentage (.540).
“On this Georgia Tech team, I feel no pressure at all as the cleanup batter,” Prince said. “Everybody is playing so well. I know that if I don’t get the big hit, someone else will.”
A junior catcher from Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., Prince says it also helps tremendously that he is hitting behind third baseman Mark Teixeira, one of the most talented players in college baseball. Quite often, teams have purposely walked Teixeira to get to Prince. That hasn’t turned out to be very good strategy.
“When you bat behind a guy like Mark, you know you are going to get a lot of good pitches,” Prince said. “There’s no question it has made my job easier.”
Prince and his buddies hope to do some more heavy hitting in an upcoming three-game series against the powerful Miami Hurricanes at Miami. The teams meet next Saturday, Sunday and Monday at 7 p.m. each day. The games pit Coach Danny Hall’s Jackets against former Tech head coach Jim Morris, now top man with the Hurricanes.
With Prince playing a major role, Tech has come back from a disappointing 1999 season to become a powerful force in college baseball this season. The Jackets won two out of three over a dangerous Clemson team last weekend to continue as the Atlantic Coast Conference leader with a 16-5 record. The Jackets are 37-11 overall and ranked among the top ten teams in the nation.
|“We all are focused on the same goal, we’re playing as one and we’re having fun. It’s always a lot more fun when you win.”
Prince credits the Jackets’ improved performance to team unity. “We all are focused on the same goal,” he said. “We’re playing as one and we’re having fun. It’s always a lot more fun when you win.”
This season’s success is a resurgence of sorts for Prince. He was slowed by an appendectomy as a freshman, even though he came on strong at the end to bat .357 in the NCAA Tournament. He also hit a ninth inning grand slam that season to spark a mighty 12-run explosion that wiped out NC State’s 13-5 lead at Raleigh. He calls his performance in that game a highlight of his career.
As a sophomore last season, Prince again ran into medical problems. He missed 16 games after under going arthroscopic surgery on his knee, an injury from which he is fully recovered. Partly because of the injury, he did not catch often, instead splitting time between first base and the designated hitter role. He batted .311.
Prince much prefers to catch on a regular basis. He’s been playing the position since he was nine years old when a coach picked him for the assignment simply because he was the only Little Leaguer on his team who could catch the ball. He was a dynamic catcher in high school at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, so good, in fact, that his jersey was retired.
Prince really drew major attention when he played on a summer league team, the Midland Redskins in Ohio, that won the Connie Mack World Series in Farmington, N.M. “It was double elimination and we had to beat Orange Country, California twice on the last day to win the championship,” Prince said.
Baseball has become a way of life for Prince. His long-range goal is to be a baseball coach. “I would like to coach at any level,” he said. “I work well with kids and baseball is very special to me.”
|As a sophomore last season, Prince missed 16 games after under going arthroscopic surgery on his knee, an injury from which he is fully recovered.
Meanwhile, Prince and his Yellow Jacket teammates have some more wars to fight this season. The ACC race definitely will come down to the last week of the regular season. Tech finishes up with three games against a tough Wake Forest team at Winston-Salem May 12-14.
“The ACC always is a tough league,” Prince said. “And that’s certainly true this year with three teams (Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson) ranked in the Top 7 in the country. In comparisons, I’ve always heard the SEC is a hitters’ league and the ACC is a pitchers’ league. Both play really good baseball.”
With Prince hitting so well this season, some might overlook the fact that, as the No. 1 catcher, he does an extremely good job of handling the Tech pitching staff.
“No question, it’s a very good staff,” Prince says. “Cory (Vance) has one of the best breaking balls in college baseball. When his fastball is really working, he’s very tough to beat.
“It has been written that Rhett (Parrott) has the best fastball in the ACC. I certainly think that’s true. (Steve) Kelly is having a great season. His control is outstanding, and he throws three different pitches very effectively. And the young reliever, Jeff Watchko, gets better and better as his confidence level improves. He’s almost automatic when he goes out there.”
It’s almost automatic, too, that Prince will do something magical with the bat in his hands. Without a doubt, his timely hitting has been a driving force in Tech’s surge back into the national spotlight.