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The On-Tech Circle: No. 20 Georgia Tech (8-1, ACC) vs. Rutgers (2-4, Big East)

Feb. 28, 2013

Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –

Friday: Buck Farmer, RHP (1-0, 0.00) vs. Rob Smorol, LHP (1-0, 1.93), 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: Dusty Isaacs, RHP (1-1, 4.72) vs. Tyler Gebler, RHP (0-1, 4.91), 4:00 p.m.
Sunday: Cole Pitts, RHP (2-0, 2.25) vs. Charlie Law, RHP (0-1, 9.00), 1:00 p.m.

No. 20 Georgia Tech is back home looking to stay hot as it hosts a weekend series against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Russ Chandler Stadium.

The Yellow Jackets made themselves right at home at Georgia Southern during their two-game mid-week series, scoring 25 runs and blasting 29 hits, 13 of them for extra bases in sweeping the Eagles,  11-4 on Tuesday and 14-8 on Wednesday. Zane Evans went 5-for-8 in the two days, with three of his hits leaving the yard. Two of those came Tuesday, when he drove in five runs. Daniel Palka continued his hot hitting, going 7-for-10 over the two days, scoring five times and driving in four runs. His career-high four hits Wednesday keyed the sweep. On the mound, Alex Cruz fired 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief in his 2013 pitching debut Tuesday as the Jackets overcame a 4-1 deficit, while on Wednesday, Saturday starter Dusty Isaacs, DeAndre Smelter and Evans combined to fire five innings of two-hit, shutout relief to secure the sweep. A four-run third inning, aided by three Southern errors, snapped a 3-3 tie and the Jackets scored in seven different innings to pull away.

Rutgers proved rude guests their last time out, taking two of three from home standing Old Dominion last weekend. Rob Smorol threw a masterpiece on Friday, shutting out the Monarchs on four hits over eight, striking out seven and walking one. Battery mate Jeff Melillo’s second-inning homer provided all the support Smorol would need. RU lost a tough one, 4-3, on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights rallied with two in the sixth to tie the game, then, after allowing a run in the bottom of the eighth, nearly rallied in the ninth. The Scarlet Knights got three hits, but had a runner thrown out trying to steal then left the tying run at second. Starter Tyler Gebler got no decision, pitching six innings, allowing three runs while scattering 10 hits. On Sunday, Rutgers nearly squandered a 6-0 lead but pulled away, routing ODU, 17-7. Ross Costello drove in six runs, four coming on a first-inning grand slam, while Vinny Zarillo went 4-for-5 with three runs scored and two RBIs, and and Nick Favatella went 4-for-5 with four runs scored, as Rutgers pounded out 16 hits.

This weekend’s series marks the 11th straight season these two schools will get together in a series that dates back to 1988. The Jackets have a dominant 44-11 edge in the series, with all previous 55 games having been played in Atlanta. Tech has won 13 straight in the series.

Jackets fans can see all of this weekend’s action via webcast on Ramblinwreck.com and can catch the broadcast on WREK 91.1 FM in Atlanta, with Nolan Alexander and Wade Rogers calling the action. Live stats are available on Gametracker on RamblinWreck.com.

Let’s play ball!

Last Time We Met: Georgia Tech led all weekend, sweeping Rutgers last March 2-4. On Friday, Tech pounded out 23 hits and Buck Farmer allowed two runs and six hits over seven innings in a 16-2 rout. Kyle Wren and Brandon Thomas combined to go 9-for-10, with six runs and two RBIs to lead an attack that saw 12 different players get a hit and eight different players score a run. Sam Dove, Daniel Palka and Mott Hyde all went deep for the Jackets, who scored four in the first, three of them on Dove’s first collegiate homer, a three-run blast. They’d break the game open with a seven-run seventh. Farmer struck out nine in his seven innings and Alex Cruz struck out four of the seven batters he faced in two shutout innings. On Saturday, Tech clinched the series, pounding out 14 more hits and winning, 9-4. Palka went 3-for-4 and Connor Lynch drove in a career-best four runs. Matt Grimes got the win, throwing six strong innings, allowing two runs and four hits, while striking out six. The Connors, Winn and Lynch, staked Tech to a 2-0 lead with second-inning RBI singles preceding Palka’s RBI knock that made it 3-0 in the third. Lynch’s two-run single in the sixth broke open a 4-2 game and Jake Davies’ three-run blast in the seventh put the game away. Grimes didn’t allow a hit over the first 3 2/3 innings and Zane Evans and Luke Bard shut the door over the final three innings. On Sunday, the Jackets completed the sweep, as Dusty Isaacs fired six strong innings and the Jackets pounded out 12 hits, in a 6-3 victory. Dove and and Evan Martin each had three hits and Evans drove in two runs with a seventh-inning triple to put the game away. Isaacs allowed two runs and three hits over six, walking two while striking out seven. The bullpen slammed the door, as Josh Heddinger, Clay Dalton and Luke Bard allowed one run and two hits over the final three innings. The finale was the closest game in the last 10 games in the series.

Hotter Than Hot: Daniel Palka has been on fire in the first nine games of 2013 for Georgia Tech. The Jackets junior right fielder is leading the ACC in batting (a .559 average on 19-for-34, hits (19), on-base percentage (.625), total bases (30), and hits per game (2.11). He’s tied for second in doubles (5)  and runs (14) and is third in slugging at .882. He certainly didn’t hurt himself during the week, as he feasted on Georgia Southern’s pitching, going 7-for-10, with four RBIs and five runs scored. On Wednesday, he came up a triple short of hitting for the cycle.
’11
1-5, 1 R, 1RBI
DNP
’12
2-5, 1 R, 4RBI  (3-Run, go-ahead HR)
’13
3-10, 2R, 5RBI 1HR

Zane’s House: J.I. Clements Stadium may be the home of Georgia Southern, but catcher Zane Evans may as well put his name on the lease the way he’s hit there.  Evans had gotten a hit, scored a run and driven in a run in all four career games he’s played there, and he’s hit better and better there every visit. He went 1-for-5 with a run and a RBI in his one game as a freshman. Last season, he went 2-for-5, with four RBIs, three of them on the go-ahead homer in the eighth inning of Tech’s 11-9 win. This past week, he strengthened his legacy,  going 5-for-8, belting three home runs and driving in six runs. On Tuesday, he had his first career multi-homer game. The blasts came in consecutive at-bats, making him the first Yellow Jacket since Tony Plagman, who did it on May 18, 2010, against Georgia State at Russ Chandler Stadium. On Wednesday he went 2-for-3 with three runs scored and an RBI, with another homer. He also pitched two scoreless innings of relief. Evans, who is tied for the ACC lead in homers, began his current homer binge last weekend against St. John’s, when he hit homers in two of the three games. He enters the series with Rutgers having homered in four of the last five games.
  
The Cruz Blues Renewed?: Alex Cruz’s performance out of the bullpen last season (an 8-3 record in a team-high 30 appearances covering 73 2/3 innings, with a 1.83 ERA) was one of the most pleasant surprises for Georgia Tech. Cruz isn’t surprising anybody this year but it looks like he’s still fooling plenty of hitters. He has not allowed a run in either of his two appearances, allowing four hits and a walk in 4 2/3 innings of work. Batters are having a hard enough time just putting the ball in play against Cruz, who has struck out 44 percent of the hitters he’s faced (7-of-16).  Against Georgia Southern on Tuesday, he went 3 2/3 innings, allowing only three hits, while striking out six. His stint gave Georgia Tech time to rally, as they would put up eight of their 10 unanswered runs while he was in the game.

Matt-er of Bat!: Freshman Matt Gonzalez is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the middle of the order. Gonzalez enters this weekend leading the ACC in RBIs, second in the conference in RBIs per game (1.89), tied for third in hits (14) , tied for second in homers (two), fifth in doubles (4), and sixth in total bases (23). He also ranks in the top 20 in the conference in average, hitting .400, good for 18th, and slugging (.657, 12th). Gonzalez drove in nine of the Jackets’ 36 runs in last weekend’s sweep of St. John’s and enters this weekend riding a six-game hitting streak, tied with Palka for the longest current streak, and A.J. Murray for the team’s longest streak this season. Gonzalez has proved as much of a threat after getting on base, as he leads the team with four stolen bases and has yet to be caught.

On Deck: Georgia Tech hosts Mercer on Tuesday then travels to Blacksburg, Va., to kick off ACC play with a weekend series at Virginia Tech. Rutgers also will spend its weekend in Virginia, about 250 miles away, visiting Williamsburg to take on William & Mary.

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