May 19, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
– Georgia Tech had to sweat out the final weekend of the regular season just to get the right to travel to Greensboro, N.C., for the 2014 ACC Tournament.
In order to stay there and continue playing, the Yellow Jackets, who finished ninth in the 10-team field, must beat No. 8 Wake Forest on Tuesday. First pitch at NewBridge Bank Park is scheduled for 3 p.m. “We have one game that’s guaranteed and the rest will be determined based on that outcome,” said head coach Danny Hall, who has coached four teams to ACC Championships (including 2012 in Greensboro, the only eighth-seed to win the title), and a fifth to the Championship game. “It’s definitely a different format and a different feel, but it is what it is, and we have to go out and play well against Wake.”
The Jackets, who have never missed an ACC Tournament since its inception in 1980, finished the season in good form, taking two of three from South Florida at Russ Chandler Stadium. After spotting the Bulls Thursday night’s game, an 8-0 loss, the Jackets turned the tables, recording a shutout behind Devin Stanton to even the series, then routed the Bulls, 12-5, to close out the regular season. Georgia Tech finished 14-16 in ACC play, stumbling a little bit down the stretch, finishing 4-8 over its final four conference series.
The Demon Deacons won four of their final five games, including taking two of three over national No. 1 Virginia — both one-run games — to overcome a late-season swoon that saw them lose seven straight and 13 of 17, to clinch the eighth spot. The series win over UVA snapped their four-series losing streak and was only their second home-series win in ACC play.
Georgia Tech and Wake Forest dates back to 1898, although there have been breaks in the series –10-year a hiatus from 1903 through 1913, a marathon break from 1913 through 1957, then from 1957 through 1971. The schools resumed the series, playing home-and-homes from 1980-83, and have met regularly since 1984. In ACC Tournament play, Georgia Tech holds a 9-4 all-time edge.
Today’s game can be seen on Fox Sports South and seen on line on ESPN3. It also can be heard on WREK 91.1 FM with Nolan Alexander and Wiley Ballard calling the action. Live stats will available on Gametracker on RamblinWreck.com.
In fact, every game can be seen on ESPN3 (Wes Durham and Dan Bonner on the call), with the Championship Game being shown nationally on ESPN2. All games in the 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. time slot can be heard on Sirius (Ch. 220)/XM (Ch. 190), with the night game and Championship Game available on SirusXM Channel 91.
Let’s play ball!
Matt Grimes, RHP (5-2, 3.93) vs. Jack Fischer, RHP (4-6, 3.56), 3 p.m. (ET)
Slump Starters: Both starters, Georgia Tech’s Matt Grimes and Wake Forest’s Jack Fischer have had success against the teams they’ll face today. Fischer threw a complete game, 120-pitch effort in winning the Friday night game, 9-2, on March 7 at Russ Chandler Stadium. Fischer, an innings horse (he tied for second in the ACC in innings pitched with 96.0), wasn’t exactly a mystery, as the Jackets nicked him for 11 hits, with Daniel Spingola going 3-for-3, and Thomas Smith going 2-for-4 (Fischer also threw three wild pitches). But the gritty sinkerball specialist induced three double plays and limited damage, as Tech was only 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position. Grimes gave the Jackets a shot in the arm on Sunday and prevented a sweep, throwing a masterful five innings, allowing only a run on two hits. He threw 67 pitches, 43 for strikes. Relievers Sam Clay (1 1/3 innings, one hit) and Zac Ryan (2 2/3 innings, four strikeouts) combined to throw four shutout innings, allowing four hits and four walks. Both head coaches expect a similarly tough day scoring runs today.
“Jack Fischer pitched extremely well against us here in Atlanta,” said Hall. “He beat us, pitched nine innings, so I know we definitely have our hands full trying to score some runs off of him.”
Wake Forest head coach Tom Walter has similar respect for Grimes, who has a different approach. “First and foremost he’s going to come at you with power,” said Walter. “He only threw four or five innings but it was early in the year. He was kind of building his pitch count up. He’s got a really good arm and we’re going to have our hands full.”
Neutral Corners, Please: The road wasn’t kind to Georgia Tech during 2014, as the Yellow Jackets went 4-12 overall on the road in ACC play and lost their final three conference road series, going 2-7, including a season-ending sweep at Virginia. Compare that to their 10-5 record in home ACC series, of which they won four of the five — coincidentally, their one series loss came to Wake Forest, in their first home series of the ACC season. Coach Hall is not concerned about the disparity. “I think that’s probably the case with most teams, they’re going to play better at home than they will on the road,” he said. “I think a neutral site kind of takes any home field advantage out of it.”
Senior Moments: The senior class of 2014 celebrated Senior Day on Saturday, all contributing to the 12-5 victory over USF. Second baseman Mott Hyde went 3-for-5, with a two-run homer and three runs scored to spark the offense. It was Hyde’s fourth three-hit game of the season and 14th of his career, and his eighth multi-RBI game, and 30th of his career. He finished the regular season reaching base in the final 34 games of the season. Pitcher Jonathan Roberts got his chance to play centerfield in the finale, pinch-hitting for Daniel Spingola in the seventh, getting an infield hit, and scoring ahead of Hyde’s homer. He went 1-for-2, with a run scored, and even made a putout, fittingly catching the final out of the game. Closer Dusty Isaacs put the exclamation mark on the finale, throwing a scoreless ninth, striking out two, and throwing the inning to senior backstop Mitch Earnest.
Congratulations!: The Yellow Jackets were well-represented on the All-ACC teams announced Monday afternoon, as two-thirds of their starting outfield, left fielder Matt Gonzalez and centerfielder Daniel Spingola, and the right side of their starting infield, first baseman Thomas Smith and second baseman Mott Hyde, were named to the team. All four were first-time honorees – Gonzalez, Spingola and Smith made the second team, while Hyde was on the third team.
Amazingly, none of them started at their current positions last season, and three of the four – Gonzalez, Smith and Hyde -played different positions entirely (Gonzalez, was at third, Smith was at second, Hyde manned short). Gonzalez was an ironman, playing in all 56 games. He led the conference in outfield assists (9, fourth in the nation) and ranked among the conference leaders in average (.307, 19th) and doubles (16, seventh). He also led the team with seven game-winning RBIs. Smith hit .306 (20th), paced the team with a .402 on-base percentage, and was immaculate defensively, fielding at a .996 percentage at his new position, making only two errors all season. Spingola led the team in hitting (.323, 11th in the ACC), scored a team-high 39 runs — a team-high seven of them game-winners — hit .336 with 20 RBIs in ACC play, both team bests, and he was 15-for-16 in stolen-base attempts, a perfect 8-for-8 in ACC play. Hyde concluded his career hitting a career-best .291 (.319 in ACC play, eighth in the conference), fielding .976, committing only four errors in ACC play, and was part of a defense that turned an NCAA-high 64 double plays. The Jackets have now had at least one outfielder earn all-conference honors in four straight years and 14 of the last 15, while Hyde is the Tech’s first all-ACC second baseman since Mike Trapani in 2005.
Tech-nicalities: Georgia Tech is 4-2 against Wake Forest in the Danny Hall Era and has met the Demon Deacons twice in its first game of the ACC Tournament — 2003 and 2005. The Jackets won the tournament both years (They also met Wake in the second game of the 2000 championship run). This will be the first tournament meeting between the schools since 2005 and the first at NewBridge Bank Park.
On Deck: The winner of this game advances into pool play, where it will face Miami, the tournament’s top seed, tomorrow, No. 4 Duke on Thursday, and, finally, No. 5 Clemson on Friday. All three pool-play games will start at 3 p.m.
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