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#STINGDAILY: Turning the Page

May 2, 2013

Matt Winkeljohn, Sting Daily –

There is not much debate about the fact that Georgia Tech’s recent baseball fortunes wore out the Yellow Jackets. Tonight, they aim to start fresh against Coastal Carolina as the stretch drive begins with Buck Farmer pitching.

For Brandon Thomas, last Tuesday was it. A dreadful loss in Turner Field to Georgia  flipped his switch.

“I talked to Sam Dove after the Georgia game about calling a team meeting, and it turned out the next day coach [Danny] Hall had already set it up,” the senior outfielder recalled. “We had a team meeting.”

The preferred result of the gathering, whose message was for players to pull their heads out of dark places and stop feeling sorry for themselves, was delayed a bit.

Tech dropped the first two games at Clemson last weekend – with strong signs in game two of a turning tide – before beating the Tigers 14-9 in the finale to snap a six-game losing streak. There may not have been a collective exhale after that one.

Then again, maybe there was.

“We’d lost several in a row so we needed to try to win one to turn momentum turning into May,” Hall said. “It was huge for a lot of reasons. It kept us at 12-12 in the league instead of being below .500. It was against a quality opponent on the road, which helps your RPI ranking.”

Here’s hoping a turn of the calendar brings a turn of events.

The Jackets were 7-10 in April. They were 21-6 before that. Yes, the schedule played a part in this, as the bulk of these games were ACC action. Yet Tech was just 3-2 in non-conference games.

After winning their first five weekend series of the season, the Jackets have lost four of six and two straight. That’s not a recipe to be kept in any book.

There has been no one problem. Pitching has been erratic, the torrid hitting that was central to the Jackets’ 17-2 start has waned, defense has come and gone.

Tech has been out of sorts. Three times in April, the Jackets allowed four or fewer runs yet lost. Seven times they allowed eight or more runs, and lost six of those.

Generally, a shortage of runs scored has been the most common issue. Twelve times in April, the Jackets scored four or fewer runs. They were shut out three times.

More than anything, Tech has suffered from a lack of confidence, and a sense of doom. Bad things have begat bad things.

“I think we went through a stretch where it seemed like everything wasn’t going our way,” Thomas said. “It felt like people started to expect the worst because so many bad things kept happening. I think it’s a mental thing.”

Hall agrees, to a point, and he hopes that the Jackets snap back to life against Coastal Carolina (27-17) before playing at Ohio State Tuesday and Wednesday, and then closing the regular season with a weekend series against North Carolina, a home game against Georgia, and a weekend series at Miami.

“As I tell our guys all the time, all our games count,” the coach said. “We’ve got to pitch better. We’ve got to play better defense. We’ve got to hit better. We’ve got to do a lot of little things better . . . The positive was that was the best we’ve swung the bats in a long time in the final game [at Clemson].

“I’m hoping that gives us a little jump start heading into May. We need to have a good May. We did not have a good April. The old saying is that hitting is contagious. So is pitching. We haven’t hit a stretch all year where we’ve been clicking on all cylinders pitching, hitting . . . we’ve got to do that.”

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