April 23, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Starters: Josh Heddinger, RHP (1-4, 6.04) vs. Blake Dieterich, LHP (3-2, 2.76), 7:00 p.m.
Coming off a big series win at the sixth-ranked Tar Heels, Georgia Tech takes on rival Georgia tonight in the 10th Annual Kauffman Tire Spring Classic for Kids, being held at Turner Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Yellow Jackets took home an inspiring series win at No. 6 North Carolina, coming from behind to win the second game of Saturday’s double header and the series finale, 4-2. After spotting the Tar Heels two runs, Jake Davies blasted a game-tying, two-run shot in the seventh, his second homer of the double-header.
Brandon Thomas had an RBI single and Zane Evans added an RBI double in the eighth to grab the lead for good. Alex Cruz then slammed the door, allowing only one baserunner over the final two innings. Cruz earned the win, giving up two hits in four innings in relief of freshman Cole Pitts. Pitts threw five solid innings, allowing only two runs. North Carolina had taken the opening game of the double-header, 12-6, while Tech had won Friday night’s game, 11-4.
The Bulldogs gave Florida, the nation’s top-ranked team, all it could handle, but dropped the rubber game of their weekend set, 6-3, Sunday afternoon. Georgia out-hit Florida, 9-8 and led 3-2 in the sixth on a Brandon Stephens RBI single, but Florida scored four runs in its half of the sixth. A three-run homer by Daniel Pigott was the big blow. The Gators then held UGA to one hit and two base runners over the final three innings. Freshman Luke Crumley threw three gritty innings, allowing only one run and three hits in his collegiate debut.
Georgia Tech and Georgia meet for the second time this season and the 355th time all-time. Tech trails the series, 154-198-2 and would like to turn the tide on the Spring Classic for Kids, having dropped seven of the nine previous games and six of the last seven.
Tonight’s games can be seen on Fox Sports South, with Dave Neal and Larry Conley on the call. Fans can listen in live on WREK 91.1 FM in Atlanta with Nolan Alexander and Will Long calling the action. Tech fans can get live stats on Gametracker on RamblinWreck.com.
Last Time We Met: In last year’s Classic, Georgia Tech appeared on its way to its sixth straight win over Georgia and second straight season-sweep but was undone by a five-run fifth inning, dropping a 6-4 decision. Daniel Palka had a monster game, going 3-for-4, with his eighth homer of the season, a double, three runs scored, and an RBI. Matthew Grimes, who had beaten Georgia twice in 2011, cruised through three innings, striking out five, and carrying a 2-0 lead into the fourth, but Georgia got an RBI single from Jonathan Hester and two-run knocks by Levi Hyams and Kyle Farmer (the latter off reliever DeAndre Smelter) to take a 5-2 lead. A Mott Hyde sac-fly in the fourth and Palka’s homer in the sixth closed the gap to 5-4, but Tech would get no closer.
One For the Kids: Georgia Tech and Georgia may be bitter rivals on the field, but both sides can agree about the importance of helping Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Tonight’s game, the 10th Anniversary Kauffman Tire Spring Classic for Kids, is a major fund-raiser, with an estimated 20,000 tickets sold each year for the game, which is played at Turner Field. All proceeds from the game benefit the pediatric research of the Children’s Neurosciences Program. All tickets are general admission, and individual tickets are available for $12 through Ticketmaster. Fans can text donations through 2012.
Bucking a Trend: Georgia Tech’s win in the second game on Saturday was a big one for a couple of reasons. It not only won the Jackets the series over the Tar Heels for the third straight year but it also marked the first time this season that Tech won a game it trailed after six innings. The Yellow Jackets had been 0-7 in ACC play and 0-14 overall in such games prior to Saturday’s second game. Beating Carolina in such a game made the feat even more momentous. The Tar Heels had been 21-5 when scoring first, 18-5 when holding opponents to between 3-5 runs and, most impressive, had been 24-1 when leading after six innings.
Powering The Jackets: Georgia Tech’s roster comes into tonight’s game with four career homers against UGA. Daniel Palka has two of them, Jake Davies has one and the fourth belongs to Connor Winn. Of the sluggers, Palka is the only one who has gone deep at Turner Field, blasting one in the sixth inning of last year’s game. Of course, the sophomore, who leads Georgia Tech and is fourth in the ACC in homers with nine, showed he can power the ball out of a Major League park during the summer, when he blasted three at Boston’s Fenway Park at the Cape Cod League All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby. More on this in Friday’s On Tech Circle!
On Deck: Georgia Tech has a weekend at home and looks to win its second straight ACC series, opening a series set with Clemson. Georgia gets back into SEC play, traveling to Baton Rouge, to take on No. 5 and SEC West-leading LSU.