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The On-Tech Circle: Georgia Tech (13-8, 3-3) at No. 13 North Carolina (14-6, 4-2)

March 20, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

– Georgia Tech completes its week-long road trip and makes its ACC road debut with a stop in Chapel Hill for a weekend series against Coastal Division rival, No. 13 North Carolina. First pitch tonight is at 5 p.m., Saturday night’s game begins at 6 p.m. and the series finale starts at 1 p.m.

The Yellow Jackets are red hot, having won four straight and six of seven, including taking the first two road games this week, a pair of midweek match-ups, at Kennesaw State on Tuesday night, then at Georgia State on Wednesday.

The Jackets pounded out 13 hits and manufactured a run in the ninth to pull out a dramatic 8-7 win against Kennesaw State. The win evened the series with KSU, which won in 12 innings at Russ Chandler Stadium on Feb.25. Matt Gonzalez opened the ninth with a bunt single and, following a Thomas Smith sacrifice and a groundout, came in on a balk to break a 7-7 tie. Tech led 5-1 after three, but a four-run sixth by KSU tied the game. The teams traded two-run rallies in the seventh, then, went scoreless in the eighth, setting up the dramatic ninth. Smith went 3-for-3 to lead five multi-hit Jackets. Sam Clay, who threw the final 2 1/3 innings, picked up the win. Freshman Tanner Shelton started and was outstanding, throwing five innings, allowing only one unearned run and two hits.

On Wednesday, Gonzalez and A.J. Murray each had three hits as the Tech bats stayed hot, getting 15 more hits, including seven doubles, in a 9-4 victory. The top five hitters in the order all had multiple-hits for the Jackets, who, spotted the Panthers two runs in the first before taking the lead for good with a five-run sixth. They added on a single run in the seventh and two more in the eighth to pull away. Freshman Ben Parr threw five strong innings to get the win, while fellow freshmen Zac Ryan and Matthew Gorst finished up.

The Tar Heels have lost two of three coming into the weekend, having lost their lone midweek game, 5-1 to West Virginia. After their Tuesday game against Princeton was cancelled, the Heels, who had scored 38 runs over their last five games, going 4-1, managed only three hits in falling to the Mountaineers. Adam Pate’s pinch-hit RBI double in the seventh scored shortstop Michael Russell in the fifth inning, to cut UNC’s lead to 2-1, but they couldn’t muster any more offense against WVU starter John Means, who struck out five and didn’t walk a batter in throwing the CG.

The Georgia Tech-North Carolina series dates back to 1901, with the schools meeting annually since 1980. The Yellow Jackets lead 70-56 overall, with a slight 25-24 edge all-time in Chapel Hill. Tech has won the last four series and nine of the last 12 games. The teams have split the last 10 series in Carolina, but Tech has won the last two.

Jackets fans can watch the entire series on ESPN3 and can listen to every pitch on WREK 91.1 FM with Nolan Alexander and Wiley Ballard on the call. The games will also be streamed on RamblinWreck.com. Live stats are available on Gametracker, also on RamblinWreck.com.

Let’s play ball!

Pitching Matchups
Friday:
Josh Heddinger, RHP (1-1, 5.03), RHP vs. Trent Thornton, RHP (5-0, 1.85), 5:00 p.m. (ET)
Saturday: Devin Stanton, LHP (1-0, 3.27) vs. Benton Moss, RHP (2-1, 2.25), 6:00 p.m. (ET)
Sunday: Matt Grimes, RHP (1-0, 1.17) vs. Zac Gallen, RHP (2-1, 3.16), 1:00 p.m. (ET)

ACC-elerating: Think there’s no difference between conference and non-conference games? Senior second baseman Mott Hyde and junior DH A.J. Murray would beg to differ. The duo has turned it on since ACC play began. Murray is hitting .467 in conference play (7-for-15), with a .733 slugging percentage, and a .579 on-base percentage. Hyde is hitting .421 (8-for-19), with three doubles, seven RBIs, a .579 slugging percentage and a .552 on-base percentage. Murray was at .167 and Hyde .233 after the non-conference portion of the schedule. BTW: Nothing has stopped Hyde as far as stolen bases, as he is 6-for-6 on the season, 3-for-3 in ACC play, 3-for-3 in non-conference play.

The Rusty 3: While the Jackets are still among the elite slugging teams in the nation — they’re one of six teams with 44 homers each of the last three years and one of seven to slug at least .430 in that span — they are no longer relying on the home run. Tech, which led the ACC in homers at this point last season, is the pace-setter in the ACC in doubles (49) and triples (8). All eight of the team’s three-baggers have come at Russ Chandler Stadium, considered a home run-hitter’s park, and have come from six different players, oddly, including both catchers, Arden Pabst and Mitch Earnest. Daniel Spingola and A.J. Murray have two each to lead the team.

Tech-nicalities: Opponents are learning that running against Pabst isn’t necessarily a good idea. The freshman catcher has thrown out 50 percent of opposing base stealers this season, gunning down six of 12.

Don’t Touch That Dial: Georgia Tech has shown a flair for the dramatic in 2013. The Yellow Jackets have trailed in each of their last nine wins and in 10 of their 13 overall. Against Miami, the Yellow Jackets led for a total of five outs the entire series, yet still took two of three and rallied from five- and six-run deficits. So far this season, the Jackets are 2-1 when trailing after seven innings — they were 2-22 in such games last season — are 9-4 when opponents score first and are 6-1 when trailing after the first inning. Last year they won seven games when trailing after one all season.

On Deck: Georgia Tech hosts Mercer on Tuesday then travels to Pittsburgh for a weekend series. North Carolina hosts Winthrop on Wednesday then visits rival Duke over the weekend.

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