Baseball’s humbling nature has worked its magic at Georgia Tech. In the same season that coach Danny Hall has achieved 1,000 career wins, the Yellow Jackets have been stricken with an injury bug unlike any Hall has experienced in his 34 years of coaching.
On a weekend when Hall will be honored by the school for his achievement, the Jackets will face No. 2 Florida State at Russ Chandler Stadium without four pitchers they had expected to rely upon this season. That includes Saturday starter Matt Grimes and closer Luke Bard, arguably two of the top three pitchers on the staff.
“Probably the frustrating thing for us is that we pride ourselves on just the health and care of our pitchers,” Hall said, “so to have the rash of our injuries that we’ve had on the pitching staff, I’m befuddled by it.”
The Jackets have also slipped in the field, ranking last in the ACC in fielding percentage. The injuries and defense have contributed to Tech’s worst start since the 2007 season, the last time the Jackets missed the NCAA tournament. Through 30 games, Tech won 24, 21, 26 and 23 games in the past four seasons.
“We need to pick it up and start playing Georgia Tech baseball,” said ace Buck Farmer, the reigning ACC pitcher of the week after his shutout of Duke on Saturday.
Grimes (elbow) has missed his past two starts and will see a specialist Monday, as will Bard (arm), who took himself out of a game Saturday. Reliever Devin Stanton (arm) is out for the season. DeAndre Smelter, a potential starter, has not pitched since Feb. 29. Catcher and occasional pitcher Zane Evans (groin) has returned after missing four games, but is unable to catch. Backup catcher Mitch Earnest has been out with a concussion.
Nine different pitchers have started for Tech. That’s a diametric opposite from the 2011 season, when starters Mark Pope, Jed Bradley, Farmer and Grimes started 60 of Tech’s 63 games and pitched 69 percent of the team’s innings. This weekend, Farmer, Dusty Isaacs and Cole Pitts will start.
“I’m frustrated by it, but in saying that, we’ve got to keep moving on,” Hall said.
The Jackets have won four of their past five games, including a series win over Duke last weekend.
“I think we’re starting to get there,” said third baseman Sam Dove, third in the ACC with a .390 batting average. “I think there’s definitely things we need to get better at, but I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
Hall, whose team is 6-6 in the ACC and tied for third with Virginia in the Coastal Division, isn’t overly alarmed. The Jackets still have series against the Cavaliers and the two teams ahead of them, North Carolina and Miami.
Taking a series from FSU (24-5 overall, 11-1 ACC) will be no small achievement. According to Hall, the Seminoles have probably the best player in the ACC in center fielder James Ramsey, who played at Wesleyan, and the league’s best defensive infield.
“It’s going to be whoever in the next seven weeks can play the best down the stretch will be the eight that get into the [ACC] tournament,” said Hall, whose achievement of 1,000 career victories, attained March 16, will be honored before Saturday’s 6 p.m. game.