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#STINGDAILY: The On-Tech Circle: No. 1 North Carolina (44-4, 19-3) vs. No. 25 Georgia Tech (30-19, 21-9)

May 9, 2013

Jon Cooper –

Friday: Buck Farmer, RHP (8-3, 2.27) vs. Kent Emanuel, LHP (9-1, 1.71), 7:00 p.m.

Saturday: Dusty Isaacs, RHP (4-4, 3.74) vs. Benton Moss, RHP (7-1, 3.34), 6:00 p.m.

Sunday: Cole Pitts, RHP (5-3, 4.87) vs. Hobbs Johnson, LHP (4-0, 2.00), 1:00 p.m.

 

No. 25 Georgia Tech literally has saved the best for last, as they’ll host North Carolina, the nation’s number one team, this weekend in its final home series.

The Yellow Jackets are coming off a midweek split at Big Ten-leading Ohio State which saw two of the best midweek pitching performances of the season. On Tuesday, freshman Jonathan King threw six shutout innings to lead Tech to a 9-2 win. King allowed four hits, striking out a career-high five. Mitch Earnest went 3-for-5 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored and Daniel Palka had a three-run triple to dead center that keyed a four-run fourth inning, providing King plenty of cushion. On Wednesday, it was sophomore Josh Heddinger’s turn, as he threw six innings of one-run, two-hit ball. But Heddinger got no decision, as the run support wasn’t as generous as the day before. Despite two hits each from Sam Dove and Zane Evans — Evans extending his hitting streak to 11 games — Tech fell, 3-2. The Jackets rallied in the ninth, plating a run and getting the tying run to second base with two out, but could not equalize.

The Tar Heels swept a midweek home series from James Madison to raise their non-conference record to 25-1. On Tuesday, they jumped out to a 7-0 lead then held off the stubborn Dukes, 9-5. Freshman Landon Lassiter led the offense, going 3-for-3, with three RBIs and two runs scored. Good things also happened in threes for Cody Stubbs, who drove in three runs, two on a first-inning double, as the Heels jumped out 4-0. The Dukes batted around in the seventh, plating five runs, but Carolina answered with two in the bottom of the inning to seal the deal. UNC completed the sweep on Wednesday, taking a 6-1 decision in a game shortened to six innings by rain. Michael Russell went 3-for-3, driving in two runs and scoring one. Parks Jordan’s two-run double in the fourth broke a 1-1 tie and put the Heels on their way. The game was called after a 50-minute delay.

This weekend renews a rivalry that dates back to 1901 — there was a 22-year hiatus from 1902 through 1923 — and has been played annually since 1980. The Jackets own a 68-55 record and are 33-26 in home games. Under Danny Hall, Tech is 40-28 against the Tar Heels having won seven of the last nine games and is 15-12 in home games. The Jackets are 6-3 in home series, and have won five of the last six.

Jackets fans can see all three games via webcast on ESPN3 with Mike DeGeorge and Roddy Jones calling the action on Friday and Richard Musterer and Roddy Jones calling both weekend games. Fans can catch all three broadcasts on WREK 91.1 FM in Atlanta, with Nolan Alexander and Wade Rogers calling the action. Live stats are available on Gametracker on  RamblinWreck.com.

Let’s play ball!

Last Time We Met: Georgia Tech might trace its strong finish last season to winning the three-game series against UNC at Boshamer Stadium. In the Friday night opener, Buck Farmer continued his dominance over the Tar Heels, limiting them to two runs and six hits over seven innings, while the Jackets had 13 hits in a 11-4 win. Thomas Smith drove in a career-high four runs and was one of five Jackets to have a multi-hit game (Jake Davies, Sam Dove, Mott Hyde and Kyle Wren were the others). In the opener of Saturday’s double-header Daniel Palka and Jake Davies homered, but the Tar Heels ran off an eight-run first inning and cruised, 11-3. In the nightcap, the Jackets overcame an early 2-0 deficit by scoring two in the seventh to tie the game, two more in the eighth to take the lead, then holding on to win, 4-2, taking the series. Cole Pitts was superb over five (two runs on eight hits), then Alex Cruz shut out the ‘Heels, allowing only two hits over the final four innings. The pitching allowed Jake Davies to tie the game with a mammoth two-run homer in the seventh, then Brandon Thomas and Zane Evans to get RBI knocks in the eighth.

UNC Are Farmer’s: You won’t get much of an argument about Buck Farmer’s All-America status from North Carolina. In fact, Farmer’s body of work against the Tar Heels actually furthers his argument. In two starts against the UNC, Farmer is 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA, having allowed two earned runs in 15.0 innings. Farmer’s allowed only 10 hits, while striking out eight. Included in those two starts was a gem on May 13, 2011, when he shut out the Heels over eight at Russ Chandler, allowing only four hits, striking out seven, with three walks.

The Hit Parade: The ACC’s top two offenses will be on display this weekend, as North Carolina is hitting an ACC-best .318, while Georgia Tech is second, only five points behind them. The teams rank 1-2 in hits, with the Yellow Jackets having 538 hits and the Tar Heels 528. Of the ACC’s top 10 hitters, seven will be digging in this weekend. They are Tech’s Brandon Thomas (.375, fourth), Kyle Wren (.364, sixth), Zane Evans (.362, seventh), and Daniel Palka (.361, eighth). Carolina is represented by Colin Moran (second at .386), Cody Stubbs (.371, fifth), and Landon Lassiter (.351, 10th). Four of the ACC top five in hits also will hold court in Tech’s Wren (75, first), and Evans (67, fifth) and Carolina’s Moran (71, third), and Stubbs (69, fourth).

Brace The Fences: Not only can both teams hit, they can hit it a long way. The Yellow Jackets have a conference-leading 44 home runs, while North Carolina is right behind them with 43. Virginia Tech is the next nearest team, five homers behind. The top four home run hitters in the ACC will be taking aim at the fences, as Tech’s Daniel Palka (14) and Zane Evans (13) are 1-2, while Carolinas Colin Moran (12) and Brian Holberton (9) are 3 and 4.

Catching A Break: While both Tech and Carolina can hit, they also can catch. The Tar Heels (.974) and Yellow Jackets (.972) rank second and third in the conference in fielding and both are top-three in fewest errors committed, as Carolina has made a league-low 46 miscues, while Tech has made 53 (tied for third with Duke). One area that separates them is the number of double plays, as Tech has turned 44, second to Clemson’s 45, while Carolina has turned a league-low 20.

A Mound of Trouble: The biggest disparity between Georgia Tech — just about everybody in the ACC for that matter — and North Carolina comes on the mound, where Carolina is pitching to a league-low 2.32 ERA, 31 points lower than the nearest team and more than two runs a game lower than Tech (4.34). Carolina also has allowed league-lows in runs (131) and hits (315).

On Deck: Georgia Tech concludes its regular season by hosting Georgia in the rubber game of the series on Tuesday then heading to Coral Gables for a season-closing three-game set against No. 18 Miami. North Carolina wraps up its regular season at home, hosting Appalachian State on Tuesday then concluding with a three-game set against No. 3 Virginia in what could decide the Coastal Division. Both teams’ ACC series run Thursday through Saturday.

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