Feb. 13, 2015
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Defending ACC Champion Georgia Tech will be in a New York state of mind when it opens its 2015 season, hosting St. John’s and Fordham on the opening weekend in the Atlanta Challenge. The Yellow Jackets kick off Friday afternoon against St. John’s, with first pitch at 4 p.m. They’ll play a doubleheader with Fordham on Saturday, beginning at 12 p.m., with the second game starting approximately 45 minutes after the conclusion of the opener. Impending cold weather led the Jackets to cancel their Sunday game against Liberty and play two against Fordham.
The 2015 season is the 118th in Georgia Tech history and the 22nd under current head coach Danny Hall. The Jackets are 16-5 in season openers in the Hall Era, are 9-1 overall under Hall in season openers at Russ Chandler Stadium and are riding a six-game home winning streak. Tech will look to add to its streak of 28 consecutive seasons playing in an NCAA Regional, the third-longest in the nation, behind only ACC rivals Florida State and Miami, which have 30. The 2015 Jackets feature a trio of Preseason All-ACC selections in senior infielder Thomas Smith, a first-team selection, and a pair of second-teamers in centerfielder Daniel Spingola, last year’s ACC leader in hits and triples, and junior infielder/outfielder Matt Gonzalez, the conference’s doubles leader last season. They’ll be captained by redshirt senior lefty Devin Stanton and first baseman/DH A.J. Murray.
The Jackets will see plenty of quality competition from both the Red Storm and the Rams. The Red Storm (35-20, 13-5), last-season’s Big East regular-season runner-up and the pick to win it in 2015, returns almost its entire ‘14 team and features six Preseason All-Big East selections, sophomore third baseman Robbie Knightes, last season’s Big East batting champion (.399), sophomore leftfielder and ‘14 Freshman All-American Michael Donadio (.328 BA, seven doubles, four triples, five home runs, 45 RBI and a league-leading 50 runs scored), junior centerfielder Alex Caruso (.326 BA, .446 on-base percentage, third in the Big East, a league-high 35 walks, reached base in 47-of-52 games), senior rightfielder Zach Lauricella (.296 BA, a team-high 14 doubles, three triples, four home runs and 39 RBI, .407 OBP, 18 multi-hit games, 10 multi-RBI games), junior right-hander Ryan McCormick (7-2 with a 4.28 ERA in 14 appearances, 13 starts. 59 strikeouts, fifth in league) and senior closer Joe Kuzia (0-2 a 0.97 ERA, a school-record 13 saves, a .179 opponent batting average, three extra-base hits allowed, 0 earned runs allowed over his first 24 appearances, covering 34.0 IP). Three of those six players, Donadio, McCormick and Kuzia were unanimous.
Fordham, picked for ninth in the 13-team Atlantic 10 after last year’s 24-30 season (13-14, sixth) and first A-10 Tournament appearance since 2010, features preseason second-team all-conference second baseman Joseph Runco, who led the Rams in at-bats (205), runs (35), stolen bases (a conference-leading 23), and sacrifice hits (11). He batted .298, but .337 in A-10 games and had 18 multi-hit games, six multi-RBI contests. The Jackets will miss junior right-hander Brett Kennedy, also a preseason second-team All-A-10 selection, who will pitch Friday afternoon at Georgia State.
As is the rite of spring, Jackets fans can hear every pitch on WREK 91.1 FM, with Wiley Ballard and Nolan Alexander on the call. The game will be streamed on RamblinWreck.com and live stats are available on Gametracker. Let’s play ball!
GT vs. St. John’s
Friday: Jonathan King, LHP (2-0, 1.96 in 2014) vs. Ryan McCormick, RHP (7-2, 4.28 in 2014), 4:00 p.m. (ET)
GT vs. Fordham
Game 1: Ben Parr, LHP (5-4, 2.62 in 2014) vs. Jimmy Murphy, RHP (0-0, 0.00 in 2014), 12:00 p.m. (ET)
Game 2: Devin Stanton, LHP (5-3, 2.24 in 2014) vs. Joseph Serrapica, RHP (0-3, 4.62 in 2014), 45 minutes after conclusion of Game 1
For the Record: Georgia Tech is 5-3 all-time against St. John’s and 4-2 under Danny Hall, winning series against the Red Storm played in Atlanta in 2011 and 2013. The teams split the first series between the schools, both games ending 5-4, in a neutral-site series in 1991. The Jackets will be playing Fordham for the first time.
To The Left, To The Left, To the Left…: No one knows better than Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall that you need to ride the hot hand. Hall will do that this weekend — riding the hot left hand of starters Jonathan King, Devin Stanton and Ben Parr. The trio of King, Stanton and Parr have one loss in their last 10 starts combined (not counting King’s March 7 start against Wake Forest, in which he was injured), going 5-1, with four no-decisions. The all-lefty rotation marks a first in Georgia Tech history in the Danny Hall Era. King actually has some history against St. John’s and, while he got a win against them, the first of his career, it’s probably a little bittersweet for him and might provide a chip on his shoulder that he’ll take to the mound should he be reminded of it about it. As a freshman, making his third career appearance, he pitched two innings of relief on Feb. 23, 2013. He allowed two runs on three hits, striking out two and walking one, with the two runs coming in on a two-run double by Johnnies’ outfielder Zach Lauricella in the eighth inning. The hit tied the game at 2-2 and deprived starter Buck Farmer of a win. King would still get the ‘W’ when the Yellow Jackets walked off with the win.
There’s a Catch…: One area where Georgia Tech could have a big advantage this weekend is on defense. The Yellow Jackets return almost their entire starting unit that last season led the nation with 23 outfield assists (nine from Matt Gonzalez, fourth in the nation and seven from freshman Ryan Peurifoy) and 77 double plays, a school-record. They fielded a school-record .974 and played error-free in all eight postseason games and 20 of their final 35 games. Catcher Arden Pabst put the brakes on opposing base-stealers, nabbing 16 of 39. His 41.0 percent CS rate ranked second in the ACC, as Tech caught 40 percent of runners overall. St. John’s, meanwhile, ranked sixth in the ACC, with a .963 fielding percentage, turning 38 double plays and catching 38.2 percent of opposing base-stealers (42 of 68). Fordham was last in the A-10 defensively, with a .953 fielding percentage, catching 20 percent of potential base-stealers (23 of 113).
Tech-nicalities: Georgia Tech pitching has been feast or famine in their two series at Russ Chandler Stadium against St. John’s. In the Jackets’ four wins they’ve limited the Red Storm to a total of three runs, getting back-to-back shutouts in their 2011 wins, and allowing two and one run in their two ‘13 wins. They’ve allowed 22 runs in the two losses (13 and 9).
On Deck: Georgia Tech plays a mid-week game against Georgia Southern on Tuesday night in Statesboro (first pitch 6 p.m.) then travels to Conway, S.C., over the weekend for the Caravelle Resort’s Baseball At The Beach tournament. They’ll open with Florida International at 1 p.m. on Friday, play Albany at 11 a.m. on Saturday, then conclude with host Coastal Carolina at 1 p.m. Sunday. St. John’s travels to Greenville, N.C., next weekend for the Keith LeClair Classic, playing host East Carolina Friday at 4 p.m., meeting Liberty Saturday at noon, then wrapping up with Michigan at 11 a.m. on Sunday. Fordham also spends next weekend in the Sunshine State, heading to Fort Myers, Fla., where they’ll sandwich games with host Florida Gulf Coast (Friday at noon and Sunday at 11 a.m.) around a game with Illinois (Saturday at 1 p.m.).
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