May 30, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Josh Heddinger, RHP (4-4, 3.64) vs. Tyler Davis, RHP (10-2, 1.75), 3:00 p.m. CT (4:00 p.m. ET)
Georgia Tech takes its first step in pursuit of a trip to Omaha and the College World Series when the ACC Tournament champs kick off play in the 2014 Oxford Regional against 14th-ranked University of Washington. First pitch at Oxford-University Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi, is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. ET.
The Jackets, the 25th-ranked team in the nation and the region’s third seed, will be making their seventh straight trip to a Regional and the 28th appearance in the last 30 years. They bring a 68-59 all-time record to Oxford, with a 39-24 mark in Regional play in the Danny Hall Era. Tech will try to get to a Super Regional after having finished runner-up in each of the last six years.
“I think it’s a great Regional,” said Head Coach Danny Hall of the grouping, which includes host Ole Miss and Jacksonville State, the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament champion. “Everybody’s a winner that gets into the NCAA Tournament and you have to play well to advance.
“We didn’t get a lot of love on the Selection Show other than our dogpile up in Greensboro,” Hall added, with a laugh. “But that doesn’t really count for anything. We just have to get ourselves ready, head to Oxford, Mississippi, and go try to play as well as we can play.”
The second-seeded Huskies weren’t picked by many in the preseason to still be playing at this point, never mind finish as Pac-12 runner-up. UW was picked 10th in the 11-team league in the preseason, but flipped the script, going 21-9 in conference play (the second-most wins in a conference season in school history) and finishing only two games behind Oregon State, the NCAA Tournament’s overall No. 1. Washington, which makes its ninth NCAA Tournament appearance and first in 10 years, won 39 games, the most in 10 years, and with one more win would reach the 40-wins plateau for only the fifth time in school history and first since 2003. Offensively, the Huskies ranked among the Pac-12 leaders in batting average (.280), slugging percentage (.383) and RBIs (284), pitching-wise they were third in ERA (3.23), and they fielded a conference-best .981, fifth in the country.
Georgia Tech and Washington meet for the 10th time ever (the Huskies hold a 5-4 edge), and the third time in a Regional, but today will be the first meeting between the schools in a decade. GT and UW met for the first time in the 1994 Wichita, Kansas, Region, with top-seed Tech winning a decisive third game from No. 5 UW, to advance to the College World Series. They’d meet again in 1997 at the Mideast Regional in Starkville, Miss., with the fourth-seeded Huskies beating the top-seeded Jackets, 8-4. The teams split a series in 1995 (Tech winning 19-8 then losing 15-10), and the Jackets dropped a home series in April 2004, winning the opener, 8-4 before losing the final two games of the series, 7-3 and 16-2.
Today’s game can be seen on ESPN2 and 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.
Let’s play ball!
You’re Joshing: Don’t let Josh Heddinger’s career NCAA stats fool you. He’s pitching to a 6.17 ERA (eight earned runs in 11 2/3 innings) in two appearances, including one start. That start, however, makes all the difference and is what Head Coach Danny Hall and the Jackets are counting on today. Last June 2, Heddinger went at host and National No. 1 Vanderbilt with the season on the line and stifled the Commodores, throwing a complete-game, two-hit shutout in Tech’s 5-0 victory. Heddinger threw a career-high 127 pitches (72 for strikes) and finished with a flourish, retiring 12 of the final 13 hitters he faced. Last Wednesday, Heddinger shut down top-seed Miami in the ACC Tournament, allowing three runs on seven hits in seven innings of Tech’s 6-3 win.
Starting For the Huskies…: Tyler Davis takes the ball for the Huskies. Davis, a nominee for the Golden Spikes and Dick Howser and Gregg Olson Breakout Player of the Year Awards, brings a 10-2 record and a 1.75 ERA. The junior tied for third in his conference in wins and fourth in ERA. He’s the 14th pitcher in program history to win 10 games and is looking to become only the fourth ever to record 11 wins in a season. He’s allowed two-or-fewer runs in 11 of his 13 starts.
Dust Buster: While Heddinger hopes to be the same pitcher he was in his 2013 NCAA Tournament appearance, Dusty Isaacs is a different pitcher since his. Isaacs made one start, on May 31, against Illinois, and allowed four runs (all earned) in 5 1/3 innings, a 6.75 ERA. The senior captain would prefer to live in the present, continuing a postseason roll that saw him earn Most Valuable Player of the ACC Tournament. Isaacs closed Tech’s first two wins, then, with the Jackets desperately needing a win, put the starter’s hat on for the first time since the appearance against Illinois and hurled five innings of one-hit, shutout ball in earning the win in the 3-0 whitewash of Clemson last Friday. For the, Tournament, Isaacs threw 8 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits. In 88 career appearances, Isaacs has 18 wins and seven saves. He has a career 2.39 ERA as a reliever, 1.81 ERA in 28 relief appearances this season.
Dee-fense! Dee-fense!: It’s no mistake that Georgia Tech and Washington are where they are — in the NCAA Tournament. Actually, it’s the lack of mistakes, especially on defense, that has put them in this position. Georgia Tech finished fourth in the ACC with a .973 fielding percentage but bumped that up to .975 in conference play (third), and played flawless defense during the recent ACC Tournament. Washington fielded at a Pac-12-leading .981 clip, fifth in the nation. Both teams deploy the double play as an important weapon. Tech turned 73 of them during the season, 37 in ACC play (both led the league) and turned nine of them during the Conference Tournament. The 73 twin-killings led the nation and were a school record, breaking the previous mark set in 1985. Fittingly, No. 72 came in the bottom of the sixth of the ACC Championship against Maryland, turning the tide of the game, while the 73rd snuffed out any chance Maryland had of coming back in the ninth. Washington led the Pac-12 with 63 DPs, sixth in the country. The key to both team’s DP-turning proficiency is strength up the middle. Tech’s tandem of second baseman Mott Hyde and shortstop Connor Justus has committed only five errors combined over the last 28 games. Justus made only two in ACC play, while fielding .985 in conference. He also boasted a streak of 25 consecutive error-free games. Hyde, meanwhile, fielded .976 in ACC play, making only four errors, with a streak of 19 straight error-free games. (The entire infield has fielded at .988 over the last 28 games, with seven total errors). Justus took part in 30 DPs (tied for second in the ACC with Jackets first baseman Thomas Smith), while Hyde was third, with 28. Washington’s middle infield features second baseman Andrew Ely and shortstop Erik Forgione. The duo finished 1-2 in the Pac-12 in double plays fielded, with Ely taking part in 45, while Forgione with 42.
Tech-nicalities: The 1994 Georgia Tech team that met Washington in the NCAA Regional had five players selected to the All-Regional Tournament Team. While that’s not a school-record, the quintet featured some of the finest talent ever assembled on one Jackets team, including Consensus All-Americans Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek, and Jay Payton and Second-Team All-American Brad Rigby. All four would be selected within the first 36 picks of that year’s MLB June Draft. Scott Byers, the fifth Jacket selected All-Regional would be selected in the 21st round of that Draft. The Jackets Head Coach that year was a rookie in Tech circles named Danny Hall.
On Deck: The winner of this game advances into the winner’s bracket and faces the winner of Ole Miss-Jacksonville State, at 6:00 p.m. ET on Saturday. The loser enters the loser’s bracket and plays the loser of Ole Miss-Jacksonville State, a 2:00 p.m. start.
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