#TGW: Captain Clutch

May 13, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

– You don’t have to be big or loud to be a leader.

At 5-11, 185, Mott Hyde is one of the smallest Yellow Jackets size-wise, yet when it comes to being a leader in the clubhouse or on the field, no one looms larger.

“He’s the senior leader,” said head coach Danny Hall. “He kind of anchors everything.”

Next Game: Tonight, vs. Georgia, 12th annual Kauffman Tire Spring Baseball Classic For Kids, at Turner Field. First pitch, 7:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports South, ESPN3
Radio: WREK 91.1 FM

Offensively, Hyde has been a sparkplug at the top of the order, switching off in the leadoff spot with Daniel Spingola. He entered play tonight in the 12th annual Kauffman Tire Spring Baseball Classic For Kids fourth on the team in hitting (.288), second in runs (34) and stolen bases (10) and, third in hits (57) and on-base percentage (.381). In ACC play, Hyde ranks among the best on the team and in the conference in batting average, on-base percentage, hits, runs and RBI.

A model of consistency, he carries a remarkable 30-game streak of reaching base, a streak extended over the weekend despite a heartbreaking sweep at the hands of national No. 1-ranked Virginia. Hyde was the only Jacket to reach base in all three games and was tied for second on the team with three hits in the series.

“I really had no idea. I didn’t even know I had a streak,” said Hyde, modestly. “I feel like I’m just letting the game come to me and swinging at things down. Not going out and getting things.”

Not going out and getting things at the plate has helped Hyde go out and get hits, lots of them, many of them big.

He’s also been involved in big plays, taking part in six game-winning scoring plays for the Jackets this season.

That’s continued a career trend for him. Hyde also has shown a penchant for big flies in big spots. Of his 19 career home runs, 11 of them have come in the second half of the season and four of those have either tied, put Georgia Tech ahead or have won games.

Hyde doesn’t consider his knack for big hits anything more than just part of the job. His teammates disagree and have taken notice of his skill in the clutch.

“There are just those people that when the stakes get higher they get more focused,” agreed redshirt junior pitcher and tri-captain Devin Stanton. “That’s what he does. If it’s the bottom of the ninth, pretty much everybody in the dugout would say he’s one of the guys they want to see up there.”

“He comes to play every day and when we need something he just gets it going,” said freshman shortstop Connor Justus. “He’s a great player. He’s awesome. I look up to him every day.”

Hyde has consistently come up biggest and shone brightest at the Kauffman game, the annual charity event with Georgia at Turner Field, the biggest stage upon which the Yellow Jackets play during the year.

He has not only hit in all three Kauffmans in which he’s played, but has done so with authority. Hyde heads into his final Classic tonight with a career .556 average (5-for-9), and an almost incredible 1.111 slugging percentage, with a pair of doubles, and a homer.

Hyde not only has more hits (five) than outs (four), he’s scored three runs and driven in three more, accounting for six of the seven runs the Yellow Jackets have scored in the three games he’s played there.

“I don’t know what it is. I guess I’m just comfortable,” he said. “It’s just a great experience playing there.”

Hyde was at his best as a sophomore in 2012, when he went 3-for-4, with three runs scored and two RBIs in the Jackets’ 4-3 come-from-behind victory.

He contributed to all four runs. He doubled and scored in the third inning to tie the game at 1-1, then, with Tech down 2-1 in the seventh, blasted a go-ahead two-run homer. Finally, with the game tied 3-3, and two out in the top of the ninth, he singled, stole second then came around to score on Kyle Wren’s game-winning double to right.

“I remember the game being really close and every game was so precious,” he said. “I felt like I was seeing the ball really well.”

Stanton remembers how Hyde’s performance set off a wild the celebration in the bullpen and set him off for the rest of the season.

“Oh my gosh! I remember just waving a towel around my head after he hit the home run,” said Stanton. “That was kind of his coming out party. I remember after that Georgia game he just caught fire. From then on, he was the spark plug to our offense. We won the ACC Tournament, and he played a big role in that.”

Hyde was a model of consistency, hitting .273 from the end of the season through the ACC Tournament (18-for-66), while getting a hit in 13 of the 18 games. He had four multi-hit games and a pair of three-RBI games, while scoring 11 runs, driving in 12 more, blasting three homers, with three doubles and stealing three bases in four attempts.

He’ll hope to ignite the Jackets over the final week and into the ACC Tournament.

That begins tonight, when he gets his final taste of “Clean, Old Fashioned Hate.”

Hyde hinted that this one means more than even he usually cares to let on.

“It’s always a fun experience going to Turner Field and playing Georgia there,” he said, before getting down to business. “We have some goals in the locker room that we have to win all the in-state series. So it’s going to be a big game.”

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