May 3, 2013
By Jon Cooper
Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.
Last Saturday, with Georgia Tech in the throes of a season-high six-game losing streak, including an embarrassing 17-0 loss to arch-rival Georgia at Turner Field, followed by a double-header loss at Clemson, the team knew something had to change. Someone had to step up and do something extraordinary.
Zane Evans would be that someone.
Evans went 6-for-6 at the plate, smashing two home runs, driving in four runs and scoring four more, as the Yellow Jackets walloped the Tigers, 14-9 in the series finale.
“I’ve never had six in a game. It never crossed my mind to have six hits,” said Evans, who, this week, was one of three Yellow Jackets named to the Golden Spikes Watch List — he’s already been named to the Johnny Bench Watch List, given to D-I’s top catcher, and, for the second straight season, the John Olerud Two-Way Player Award Watch List. “I think the most hits I’ve ever had in a game would be three or four. I’m sure it will sink in one of those days that I actually had six hits in a game. Sometimes people don’t do that in a weekend.”
Only three Yellow Jackets had ever had six hits in a game prior to Evans on Saturday — K.G. White against Evansville in 1987, Jeremy Slayden against Duke in the 2003 ACC Tournament, and Chase Burnette against Presbyterian in 2009.
Of course, neither his performance on Saturday nor this weekend’s series against Coastal Carolina (which began with a double-header Friday) ranked too high on his priority list, as last week was dedicated primarily to finals. But Evans knows the series finale win over Clemson was not only huge for him, but for the entire team, which really needed a lift.
“It felt good and it was kind of a rebound from the day before and the weeks prior to that,” said the junior catcher/closer. “The whole team was kind of struggling and we needed to get things going in the right direction. I was glad I was able to help out like that. It’s kind of cool to do that for Coach Hall as well.”
The timing and the opponent couldn’t have been better considering it came against Clemson and followed a disheartening Friday double-header sweep, in which the Jackets saw their ace Buck Farmer give up eight runs (although only four earned) in an 11-3 loss, then dropped a heartbreaking 4-3, 11-inning loss, with Evans taking the loss in his season-high third inning of relief.
Evans hopes that black Friday and the weeks leading up to it were washed away by Saturday and that while there may not be sunshine over Russ Chandler Stadium this weekend, the cloud that had seemed to be following the team may be gone, replaced by a forecast of lots of thunder.
“The bats have been kind of quiet. I think that scoring 14 runs and having 18 hits total as a team (seven of them in a 10-run fifth inning) is going to be big,” he said.
Big enough to possibly trigger the kind of finish that the team had last season, which led to an ACC Tournament Championship.
“We need the bats to come alive and maybe get a little bit of confidence back in our swings,” said Evans, the ACC leader in home runs (13) and slugging (.669) and the team leader in game-winning RBIs (6), who brought a six-game hitting streak into the weekend. “I think it’s really going to play well for us down the stretch leading into a couple of big series coming up.”
The Jackets have ACC series against North Carolina next weekend then at Miami the following week to close the regular season. In between those is the rubber game against Georgia at Russ Chandler Stadium.
But first there’s this weekend against Coastal, which boasts a 27-17 record, 13-5 in the Big South, and leads the conference’s South Division. That’s followed by a visit to Big Ten leader Ohio State (30-13, 12-6) for a two-game weekday series. (The teams will try to complete the series today, despite forecasts of imminent inclement weather.)
While Coastal and OSU won’t provide a competitive break — the Chanticleers rank No. 43 in the nation, the Buckeyes are No. 42 — they will provided a welcome break from the pressure of the ACC.
“We won’t have to worry about standings. We can just go back to playing baseball,” said Evans. “We’ve kind of been on the border looking at things going into the ACC Tournament and seeing where we’re standing. I think these next five games are going to be good for us. Hopefully that will help us get our bats going.”
Exams being over also should help.
“It was pretty tough. Georgia Tech is tough anyway but I had two [Tuesday] and had two more on Thursday,” Evans said. “It’s always a good time once you can just concentrate on baseball. I think that’s what everyone’s really looking forward to. We’re definitely looking forward to the upcoming weeks, just to be able to concentrate on baseball and get things going in the right direction again.”