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The On-Tech Circle: Georgia Tech (26-19, 12-12) vs. Virginia Tech (18-25-1, 7-17)

May 1, 2014

By Jon Cooper

 The Good Word

Pitching Matchups
Friday: Josh Heddinger, RHP (3-2, 3.91), Sean Keselica, LHP (3-3, 3.96), 7:00 p.m. (ET)
Saturday: Devin Stanton, LHP (3-3, 2.54), Brad Markey, RHP (2-6, 3.25), 1:00 p.m. (ET)
Sunday: Ben Parr, LHP (4-1, 2.13) vs. Kit Scheetz, LHP (3-1, 6.18), 1:00 p.m. (ET)

Georgia Tech concludes the home portion of its ACC schedule this weekend, entertaining Coastal Division rival Virginia Tech. First pitch tonight at Russ Chandler Stadium is at 7:00 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday games beginning at 1:00 p.m.

The Yellow Jackets are looking to get back on track after dropping their second straight ACC series last weekend at NC State. Jackets bats were shut down by the Wolfpack, as they scored only two runs the entire series, yet they were still able to get a win. One run was enough on Friday night, as Josh Heddinger outdueled NC State ace Carlos Rodon in a 1-0 win. Heddinger got the win, throwing a season-best 7 1/3 shutout innings, allowing only two hits, striking out four and not walking a batter. Sam Clay slammed the door shut, allowing only one hit and striking out three to earn his fourth save. Offensively, Matt Gonzalez went 3-for-4 and drove in the only run with a sixth-inning single. Tech managed only six hits of Rodon, who went the distance, but bunched three of them together in the sixth, as Brandon Gold led off with a single, Mott Hyde followed an Arden Pabst sacrifice with a single moving Gold to third and Gonzalez brought him home. On Saturday, Devin Stanton gave Tech another well-pitched game, allowing one run and five hits over six, but took the hard-luck 1-0 loss. The Jackets outhit the Wolfpack, 8-5, and got three errors from State, but couldn’t push across a run against four State pitchers, stranding 11 runners. Hyde and Daniel Spingola each had two hits for the Jackets. Tech lost the series finale, 7-1, as the `pack got to starter Matt Grimes for four runs in the first. State added three more in the second creating too big a hole for the Jackets to dig out of. Connor Justus’ fifth-inning groundout brought in the only run for Tech, which managed only six hits, yet still left 14 on base, eight in scoring position.

The Hokies, who are 1-5 in their last six ACC series, are 1-7 in their last eight road games and have lost eight straight overall. They had their midweek game at Radford rained out following a heartbreaking sweep at the hands of North Carolina in Chapel Hill last weekend. The Hokies lost all three games by a total of four runs. Sean Keselica lost 3-2 on Friday despite a superb complete-game effort, allowing three runs (two earned) and only four hits, striking out five while walking three in his eight innings. Corner outfielders Logan Bible (3-for-4) and Kyle Werenki (2-for-4), drove in the Hokies runs with sixth-inning RBI singles, but the Heels answered with two in their half, then won in the eighth. On Saturday, Va. Tech dropped another heartbreaker, 6-4. Keselica, playing first base, had another big game, going 3-for-4, with a two RBIs, while DH Brendon Hayden added a pair of RBI singles. The Hokies scored two in the first then two more in the fifth, but each time saw the Tar Heels answer immediately, tying the game in the first and taking the lead for good in the fifth, plating three, the last two unearned. The `heels added an insurance run in the eighth. On Sunday, Tech fell, 5-4, on a walk-off sac-fly in a see-saw game that saw the Hokies blow an early 2-0 lead then overcome a pair of one-run deficits. Bible went 3-for-4 with a walk and a run scored and catcher Mark Zagunis was 2-for-5 with a run scored. Tech had 10 hits and seven walks but stranded 13 runners.

Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech resume a series that dates back to 1980 and has been an annual series since 2005. The Yellow Jackets hold a 22-13 edge all-time in the series and are 14-7 at the Rusty C. They have won eight of the 10 series all-time, and five of the last six overall, two by sweep, but they are only 3-2 in home series since ’05, although two of those three series wins were sweeps.

All three games of this weekend’s series will be televised on ESPN3, with Saturday’s game also being shown on Fox Sports South. Jackets fans can catch every pitch on WREK 91.1 FM with Nolan Alexander and Wade Rogers calling the action. Live stats are available on Gametracker, also on RamblinWreck.com.

Let’s play ball!

Last time We Met: The 18th-ranked Yellow Jackets and Hokies split four games, with the Georgia Tech winning the season series, March 8-10 in Blacksburg, while Virginia Tech won the series finale and the ACC Tournament match-up. On Friday night, Daniel Palka had two hits, including his first career grand slam, and Zane Evans added two homers and four RBIs to back Buck Farmer in an 11-1 win. Farmer no-hit the Hokies over five innings and allowed one run and two hits over six, striking out seven and walking three. Brandon Thomas went 2-for-3, with three runs scored, and Kyle Wren also had a multi-hit game. On Saturday, Tech used a six-run seventh to take a come-from-behind 14-9 slugfest, in which the teams combined for 23 runs and 29 hits. Seven different Jackets had multi-hit games, led by Brandon Thomas and Matt Gonzalez, who had three each and every Jackets starter had at least one hit and scored a run, as Tech pounded out 18 hits. Tech sent 12 batters to the plate in the seventh, as they scored six times, for the fifth and final lead-change of the game. Alex Cruz got the win, throwing 4 1/3 innings in relief of starter Dusty Isaacs, and, in an important omen, freshman lefty Jonathan King closed the game out, throwing two perfect innings. On Sunday, Tech fell, 6-2, despite two hits a run and a RBI from Brandon Thomas. Cole Pitts matched Va. Tech starter Devin Burke over five, as the game stood 1-1, but a three-run homer by Hayden dealt Pitts his first loss in more than a calendar year. The teams met for a fourth time on May 24th at Durham Bulls Athletic Park with a berth in the ACC Tournament Championship Game at stake. King pitched brilliantly in his first postseason start, and the defending Tournament champion Jackets had a pair of one-run leads, but the Hokies scratched out runs in ted fifth and seventh and took the 3-2 decision. King threw 6 1/3 innings, scattering nine hits while allowing three earned runs. Sam Dove and Matt Gonzalez each went 2-for-3, and Kyle Wren and Daniel Palka drove in runs for the Jackets, who threatened to tie in the eighth, but left the tying run at second.

A Mott-er of When, Not If: If it seems like Mott Hyde is always on base it’s because he pretty much always is. The senior second baseman heads into this weekend having reached base in 23 consecutive games and leads the team with a .417 on-base percentage in conference play (12th in the league). Hyde, who was one of only three Jackets to record a multi-hit game last weekend at NC State, is hitting .285 for the season (fifth on the team) with 27 RBIs (third) but has really turned it on in ACC play. He’s leading the team with a .323 batting average (10th in the conference) and 18 RBIs (ninth), and is second on the Jackets with 30 hits (fourth in the conference and second on the Jackets, one behind Daniel Spingola).

First Things First: Georgia Tech has shown that scoring first isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be. The Jackets have scored first 21 times this season and have won 13 times in those games. They also have allowed opponents to score first 23 times and have come out on top 13 times. Getting that first run may take on a little more significance this weekend, however, as Virginia Tech is 12-7-1 when scoring first but only 6-18 when opponents do. Of course, the Hokies may be re-thinking that stat, as they scored first in all three games last weekend but still got swept at North Carolina.

Tech-nicalities: The Yellow Jackets have increased the number of players with game-winning RBIs each month, with five players getting one in February, six doing so in March and seven getting game-winners in April. Interestingly, only two players, Matt Gonzalez and Daniel Spingola, who are 1-2 on the team in GWRBIs — Gonzalez with six, Spingola with four — have game-winners in each month and Gonzalez is the only Jacket with a GWRBI hit in February, March and April. Spingola does hold the distinction of being the only Jacket to drive in a game-winning run without an official at-bat and without even putting the ball in play, as on March 22nd against North Carolina, he drove in the game-winner on a hit-by-pitch.

On Deck: Georgia Tech hosts North Florida on Tuesday in its final home midweek game then closes out its ACC slate with a weekend series at Virginia, the nation’s top-ranked team. Virginia Tech visits West Virginia on Tuesday then hosts Northeastern on Wednesday before getting the weekend off.

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