The On-Tech Circle: Georgia Tech at No. 6 North Carolina
Yellow Jackets (22-16, 7-11 ACC) hit the road to play Tar Heels (28-10, 12-6 ACC)
April 19, 2012
Jon Cooper, Sting Daily -
Friday: Buck Farmer, RHP (5-3, 3.34) vs. Kent Emanuel, LHP (5-2, 1.82), 6:00 p.m.
Georgia Tech faces a big test this weekend against sixth-ranked and Coastal Division-leading North Carolina at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill.
The Yellow Jackets broke out the bats their last time out, an 8-4 victory over Georgia State Tuesday night at Russ Chandler Stadium. Jake Davies and Zane Evans each had three hits and two RBIs in the victory. Dusty Isaacs pitched two innings (on a pitch count), allowing one run and two hits to get the win. Josh Heddinger followed with 5 1/3 stellar innings, allowing three runs (two earned) and five hits, while striking out six, and Alex Cruz finished allowing one hit in 1 2/3 innings. Tech jumped out to a 4-0, first-inning lead as Sam Dove, Brandon Thomas, Davies and Evans singled consecutively to open a 2-0 lead. Paul Kronenfeld added a two-run double to complete the first-inning barrage and the Jackets never looked back.
The Tar Heels are coming off a rare midweek, 5-3 loss to Liberty on Wednesday night at Boshamer Stadium. The win snapped a five-game winning streak. Starter Chris Munnelly allowed two runs and five hits over five but got no decision. Third baseman Michael Russell was one of three Tar Heels with two hits, he scored a run and drove in both runs with an RBI single in the second and an RBI double in the sixth.
Georgia Tech and North Carolina have met 120 times in a series that dates back to 1901 but didn't become a yearly rivalry until 1980. Tech has a 66-54 lead in the series and has won seven of the last 10 meetings. In Chapel Hill, the series is deadlocked at 23 wins apiece.
All three games can be heard live on WREK 91.1 FM in Atlanta with Nolan Alexander and Wade Rogers on the call. Friday's and Sunday's games will be broadcast live on ESPN3, with Sunday's game being broadcast on ESPNU. Tech fans can get video and live stats on Gametracker on RamblinWreck.com.
Last Time We Met: The Yellow Jackets won one of their most memorable series of the season last year against North Carolina at Russ Chandler Stadium. Tech dropped the opener, 3-2, despite out-hitting Carolina, 10-9. Mark Pope took only his third loss of the season, allowing three runs and nine hits over six innings, but he couldn't get Colin Moran out, as the freshman third baseman's fourth-inning solo homer and two-run, fifth-inning single drove in all three Tar Heel runs. Two-out RBI singles by Evan Martin and Jacob Esch in the seventh got the Jackets to within a run, but an inning-ending double play in the eighth and robbery on Martin to end the game kept Tech from equalizing. The Jackets evened the series on Saturday with some drama of its own. Daniel Palka's fourth hit of the game, an RBI single, capped a five-run ninth-inning rally, as Tech stole a 9-8 win from the Heels. The Jackets trailed 8-3 when Palka homered in the eighth. Then, in the final frame, Jake Davies hit a three-run single, advancing to second on an error. Mott Hyde followed with a game-tying single and Palka ripped the first pitch he saw into right, delivering pinch-runner Sam Dove with the winning run. It was Georgia Tech's first win in 12 tries trailing after six and made a winner of DeAndre Smelter, who threw two shutout innings. The finale belonged to Buck Farmer, who pitched eight shutout innings in a 3-0 victory that gave Head Coach Danny Hall his 300th career ACC victory. Farmer allowed eight hits while striking out seven. Tech got all its runs in the fifth, on a Kyle Wren RBI double, and Esch and Hyde RBI singles.
Saint Jake: Jake Davies is leading by example at the plate. The senior is riding a career-long 11-game hitting streak (during which he's hitting .462), having scalded three hits his last time out against Georgia State. Davies' current run is tied for fourth-longest by a Yellow Jacket this season and has moved him into the top 10 in the ACC in hitting (.353, ninth). A hit Friday would tie him for third-longest streak with Palka and a hit on Saturday would tie him with Brandon Thomas for second-longest streak. Davies has been big all year, as he is tied for the lead in the ACC in RBIs with 39 and paces the team with 10 multi-RBI games. His 14 multiple-hit games, six coming in the last seven games, are third behind Thomas (18) and Sam Dove (17). His 38 career-multi-hit games are one off the current career lead, held by Kyle Wren. Davies also is a Carolina-killer, as he's hitting .455 career (5-for-11). He even has a 1.69 ERA (one earned run in 5 1/3 innings) against the Heels.
Bet The Farm: Friday-night starter Buck Farmer is one of the hottest starters in the ACC. Farmer has allowed just one run over his last three starts, covering 23 innings (a 0.39 ERA), while his 74 strikeouts are third in the ACC (eighth in the nation) and his 11.23 K's per nine innings also are third in the conference (17th in the country). Farmer has the ACC's only complete-game shutout this season, a three-hit, 11-strikeout masterpiece on March 31st, in which he outdueled Duke ace Marcus Stroman.
Alexander The Great: Alex Cruz is doing out of the bullpen what Farmer is doing as a starter. Cruz has allowed one run over his last 23 innings and played an integral part in the last three Georgia Tech wins, getting victories over Mercer, and at Wake Forest, then slamming the door on Georgia State on Tuesday. Cruz leads the team in appearances and has been scored upon in back-to-back appearances one time all season.
Triple Your Pleasure!: Kyle Wren is already in the top 10 career in triples. The sophomore centerfielder has 11 career three-base-hits with four of them coming this season. Wren's next three-bagger will move him into a five-way tie for sixth all-time in Georgia Tech history, with Bobby Reeves (1924-26), Duck McGee (1930-31), Eric Patterson (2002-04) and Jeff Rowland (2008-10). He's two away from tying Cam Bonifay (1971-74), for fifth all-time. Wren better watch out, however, as Brandon Thomas, who bats behind him in the order, is right behind him in career triples, with 10 and is one ahead of him on the team with five. Thomas's five three-base hits tie him for second in the ACC with Virginia's Jared King, Florida State's James Ramsey and North Carolina's Tommy Coyle. Wren and Thomas combine for nine of Tech's 13 triples on the year.
Good Pitching Beats Good Hitting: North Carolina doesn't have a hitter in the top 25 in the ACC in batting average or slugging percentage, but has made up for that, with a pitching. The Tar Heels feature has two pitchers in the top four in the ACC in ERA in Friday and Saturday starters, Kent Emanuel (1.82, second) and Benton Moss (2.00, fourth). They have three pitchers in the top 15 in opposing batting average, including Moss, who is fifth at .207 and Emanuel, who is 15th at .245, and two of the top 10 hurlers in strikeouts (Moss, 58, tied for fifth), and Emanuel (52 ninth). Moss and Emanuel are second and third in batters caught looking (Emanuel, 29, Moss, 24). In addition, Emanuel is fifth in innings (59.1, tied with Farmer). Meanwhile, at the end, closer Michael Morin is tied for the ACC lead with 10 saves.
On Deck: Georgia Tech plays Georgia in the annual Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Spring Baseball Classic on Tuesday, at Turner Field, then opens a weekend series with Clemson. UNC hosts UNC-Greensboro Tuesday night then East Carolina on Wednesday. They'll take the weekend off.