The Georgia Tech baseball team had lost three consecutive series and appear to be reeling. In the span of 48 hours, the picture changed considerably.
Over the weekend, the Yellow Jackets took two of three games from North Carolina, ranked No. 1 or 2 in the major baseball polls, and gave a different cast to the remaining four games of the regular season. Tech plays Georgia Tuesday at Russ Chandler Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
“I don’t know that I feel differently about them, but I think that we answered a lot of questions in terms of what we’re capable of doing,” coach Danny Hall said.
If the Jackets can just approach the level of play they reached this weekend — they held the NCAA’s highest run-producing team (8.8 runs per game) to 15 runs in three games, did not commit an error and won both games in their last at-bat — this much is certain: They won’t lose 17-0 to the Bulldogs as they did April 23 at Turner Field. It was the Jackets’ second worst loss in the 358-game history of the rivalry.
“I guess I hope that the way Georgia beat on us is fresh on their minds,” Hall said. “That’s probably as embarrassed as I’ve ever been in a Georgia Tech uniform, so I’m certainly hoping that my team feels the same way.”
The next four games, starting against Georgia and then a weekend series at Miami to close the regular season, will offer an indication whether the series win over the Tar Heels has reversed Tech’s course. Since a series win over Virginia April 12-14, Tech had won four of 13 games, gave up an average of 7.3 runs per game, averaged almost two errors per game and walked 5.4 batters per game.
In that span, the Jackets lost three consecutive series and absorbed the bludgeoning from the Bulldogs.
If the Jackets can finish well, meaning a win over Georgia (which would give the Jackets the season series for the fourth consecutive season), a series win over Miami and a strong run at the ACC tournament in Durham, N.C., starting May 22, the Jackets could well be one of the 16 teams given a home assignment for NCAA regional play.
“You don’t want to hear about potential at this time of year, but it’s in there,” Tar Heels coach Mike Fox said of Tech’s roster. “Very well, this series win and how well they played might have been just what they needed in terms of giving them some confidence. Going forward, it’ll be interesting to see how they play at Miami.”
UNC (No. 4 in Monday’s National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association poll) and Virginia (No. 7) have a combined 14 losses. Tech is responsible for four of them. The Jackets’ record (32-20) doesn’t inspire awe, but it has been recorded against one of the tougher schedules in the country.
“I don’t know how they have the record that they have after what we just saw for three days,” Fox said.
The main challenge has been pitching. After No. 1 starter Buck Farmer, the Jackets have been unable to develop consistency out of their starters or bullpen. Against North Carolina, Farmer and No. 2 starter Dusty Isaacs produced solid starts. Daniel Palka, Cole Pitts and Zane Evans contributed a combined 7 2/3 innings of scoreless relief over the weekend.
“The biggest thing we’ve just tried to impress on all of them is, let’s not beat ourselves,” Hall said. “If we can get to where people have to hit the ball to beat us, it’s going to take some runs off the board that we’re giving up and it’s going to keep us close. If we stay focused, we’ve got enough guys that can hit the ball that we’re never going to be out of a ballgame.”