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The On-Tech Circle: No. 9/13 Georgia Tech (31-14, 18-6) vs. 9/17 North Carolina (39-10, 16-8)

May 12, 2011

No. 9/13 Georgia Tech (31-14, 18-6) vs. 9/17 North Carolina (39-10, 16-8)

Friday: Mark Pope (10-2, 1.27) vs. Patrick Johnson (8-1, 3.10), 4:00 p.m. ET
Saturday: Jed Bradley (6-2, 2.63) vs. Kent Emanuel (6-1, 2.73), 6:00 p.m. ET
Sunday: Buck Farmer (8-2, 3.10) vs. Chris Munnelly (5-3, 3.91), 1:00 p.m. ET

Georgia Tech hosts North Carolina in a battle of top-20 teams (their rankings vary depending on which poll you read) in a key series for position in the tightly packed Coastal Division. The top four teams are separated by four games beginning play today. The Yellow Jackets enter the series in second place, two games behind first-place Virginia and two games ahead of UNC (Miami is a half-game ahead of Carolina).

Tech is riding a four-game winning streak after routing Savannah State, 11-3, on Tuesday night. Freshman Mott Hyde went 3-for-3, with five RBIs, and Jacob Esch scored two runs and drove in two runs. Jake Davies and Matt Skole also scored two runs. The Jackets used a four-run first and a five-run fifth to pull away.

The Tar Heels extended their winning streak to a season-high eight games by twice rallying to edge North Carolina Asheville, 4-2, on Wednesday. Chaz Frank and Ben Bunting each had two hits, with Bunting also driving in a run and scoring what proved to be the game-winner in the seventh.

Georgia Tech holds a 64-53 all-time edge in the series, which began back in 1901, then was discontinued until 1923. The Jackets swept last season’s series, ending a two-year series losing streak to the Tar Heels.

Last Time We Met: The third-ranked Yellow Jackets swept the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill last season. The series started with a dandy pitching match-up in which Tech’s Deck McGuire outdueled UNC’s Matt Harvey. Both went seven, with McGuire allowing one run on six hits while striking out a career-high 10. Harvey allowed only three hits and struck out 11, but walked six, which would hurt him. Thomas Nichols got two of Tech’s season-low three hits, and also scored both runs, including what proved to be the winner on a bases-loaded walk in the seventh. Tech turned double plays in the eighth and ninth innings. The latter came with the bases loaded and one out, when second baseman Jacob Esch pulled in a line drive then flipped to shortstop Derek Dietrich to hold off the Heels. Tech clinched the first series win since 2006 with a 13-5 win on Saturday. Cole Leonida went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs scored and Matt Skole went 2-for-4 with four RBIs and a run scored as Tech scored nine two-out runs. Jake Davies got the win in relief of Brandon Cumpton. In the finale, Dietrich had a career-high five hits, including a two-run homer in a five-run ninth inning as Tech rallied for an 11-8 win in 10 innings, completing the sweep. Again the Jackets used two-out lightning, as Brandon Thomas hit a two-run triple and Jeff Rowland added an RBI single prior to Dietrich’s game-tying blast. Thomas’ sacrifice fly brought home Skole with the tie-breaking run in the 10th. Rowland and Dietrich added RBI singles in the frame. Andrew Robinson pitched two scoreless frames to earn the win.

Countdown to 300: Head Coach Danny Hall has an opportunity to make history this weekend at Russ Chandler Stadium, as he sits two wins away from 300. Hall brings a career record of 298-162-1 in ACC play into the series (a .648 winning percentage). Only three coaches in ACC history have ever reached the 300 wins plateau — Bill Wilhelm of Clemson, the all-time leader at 378, Florida State’s Mike Martin (358), and Clemson’s Jack Leggett (300). Hall, who has never had a losing season in ACC play, has already extended his streak of 15-win seasons to nine.

Nowhere to Hyde: Second baseman Mott Hyde is finishing on a torrid streak. Hyde is hitting .571 (8-for-14) over his last four games. In the streak he has three multi-hit games, including a pair of 3-for-3 games, has scored five runs (one in each game), and has driven in eight runs, including a career-best five in Tech’s last game against Savannah State. The hot streak came on the heels of a two-week stretch that saw him go 2-for-24.

Homecoming King: This weekend’s series marks the second straight ACC series in which a Georgia Tech player is facing a team from his home state. This time it’s closer Luke Bard. Bard grew up in Charlotte, N.C., and is the brother of Daniel Bard, who is pitching with the Boston Red Sox after pitching two years with the Tar Heels (2004, ’05). This series won’t be his first against the Heels, as last year he pitched 1 1/3 hitless innings against the Heels at Broshamer Stadium in Tech’s 13-5 Saturday victory. Bard has been tough over his last six appearances, pitching to a 3.71 ERA (four earned runs in 9 2/3 innings), allowing nine hits, while striking out seven and walking three.

On Deck: Georgia Tech hosts East Tennessee State on Tuesday then concludes its 2011 regular-season schedule with a trip to Blacksburg, Va., to take on Virginia Tech. North Carolina hosts Appalachian State on Tuesday then finishes its ’11 season with a home weekend series against ACC Coastal leader Virginia.

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