Friday, April 12, 2013

series preview: Georgia Tech

Date/Time: Fri/Sat/Sun, April 12-14; 7:00, 1:00, 1:00


Record against the Jackets: 44-66-2

Last meeting: GT 17, UVA 5; 5/25/12, Greensboro, NC (ACC tournament)

Last game: RU 9, UVA 8 (4/10); GT 7, UGA 5 (4/9)

Last weekend: UVA 3-0 over WF (7-6, 8-6, 9-7); Duke 2-1 over GT (0-2, 2-1, 0-3)

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #5, GT #20
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #4, GT #18
NCBWA: UVA #5, GT #19
Perfect Game: UVA #5, GT #19
Coaches: UVA #5, GT #17
Consensus: UVA #5, GT #17

Georgia Tech lineup:

C: Zane Evans (.347-10-41)
1B: A.J. Murray (.288-3-25)
2B: Matt Gonzalez (.371-2-31)
SS: Mott Hyde (.250-0-16)
3B: Sam Dove (.290-2-20)
LF: Dylan Dore (.303-0-4)
CF: Kyle Wren (.387-2-19)
RF: Daniel Palka (.372-8-36)
DH: Brandon Thomas (.439-1-18)

Pitching probables:

Friday: LHP Brandon Waddell (2-0, 3.71, 52 K) vs. RHP Buck Farmer (6-1, 1.47, 64 K)
Saturday: LHP Scott Silverstein (5-0, 3.77, 33 K) vs. RHP Dusty Isaacs (4-2, 3.57, 40 K)
Sunday: RHP Nick Howard (4-2, 2.03, 38 K) vs. RHP Cole Pitts (4-3, 3.43, 26 K)

I promised sporadic updates and boy am I coming through.  I currently have no fewer than six major obligations coming due in the next two weeks for school, one of which is a 15-page, single-spaced paper, of which a little under four are complete thanks to today's efforts.  So we're getting somewhere.  I do crave your indulgence for a little bit here.

Anyway, kind of a big weekend coming up with a three-game series against Georgia Tech.  We have a tough opponent in the Jackets, and on the road too.  GT is three games back of UVA, but with a tougher schedule under their belt so far.  Major tournament positioning is at stake against a team that traditionally hits very well.

-- UVA at bat

Georgia Tech will send a parade of right-handed starters to the hill this weekend, which means we got Derek Fisher back just in time (he had two hits in the Radford game) as it never hurts to have extra left-handed pop in the lineup in such a circumstance.  Especially at Georgia Tech's ballpark, which is a launching pad.  A short right-field foul pole gives way to a very deep power alley in right-center, but left-center only measures 353 feet.

Friday, UVA will face Buck Farmer, a big guy with a good, powerful fastball.  Farmer's been pitching ace-quality stuff this year, and is allowing only a .195 BA against.  Saturday hurler Dusty Isaacs is a junior who's rebounded well from a poor showing last season when his ERA was north of 6.  Much better this year, although he's already plunked seven batters.  Cole Pitts, on Sunday, is more of a contact pitcher who throws a cut fastball and makes use of the fielders behind him rather than trying to overpower hitters.

As with the last time I did a baseball preview (Miami) we face an opponent with a short bullpen.  The top reliever is lefty Jonathan King, with a 4.13 ERA, and they have one more southpaw in Sam Clay.  Occasionally GT will have catcher Zane Evans head to the mound to finish off a game; Evans actually leads the Jackets in saves with three.  Righty Jonathan Roberts is another main option.  Make no mistake, though: the quality of pitching drops considerably when the starters leave the game.  UVA's lineup has been the kind to attack when they smell blood, and big games and innings tend to only get bigger.  A guy like Farmer could give them trouble, so I wouldn't be surprised to see UVA shut down in one game and then explode the next.

-- GT at bat

The potent GT lineup got a major boost this week when Brandon Thomas returned after missing nine games with mono.  Duke is a better team than usual this year, but GT still has no business getting shut out twice and scoring two runs in three games against the Blue Devils; that miserable showing illustrates better than anything else how much they might've missed Thomas.  Hitting .439 is a great way to set the table for the powerful bats behind him.

Which they have plenty of.  The prototypical GT batter is a mashing galoot.  Catcher Zane Evans and right fielder Daniel Palka are each slugging over .600, and have 10 and 8 home runs this year, respectively.  Not bad when the season's only half over.  Both are miles over the .300 mark as well.  Matt Gonzalez and Kyle Wren are .370+ hitters in their own right, and I have to imagine all these numbers were even scarier before the Duke series.  Those two are liable to take off running as well, especially Wren, who attempts a steal roughly one out of every three times he gets on base. 

The only platoon is in left field, where Dylan Dore and Daniel Spingola split time.  Since UVA throws two left-handers, we'll probably see Dore twice and Spingola once.  Both are solid if unspectacular hitters; of course, if either were awe-inspiring, there'd be no platoon.  But the only weak point in the lineup, if you can call it that, is shortstop Mott Hyde.  Hyde is only hitting .250, but he did hit seven homers last year, too, so the truth is that he's underachieving this year rather than that he's simply a light-hitting shortstop.

I worry a little, because the pitching hasn't been exactly dominant in recent weeks.  GT is always a test of your arms and they make you pay for mistakes.  If they get through this lineup relatively unscathed, it would provide a lot of confidence for the upcoming tough stretch.

-- Outlook

Awfully hard to expect a sweep either way.  These are two of the ACC six ranked teams.  UVA did make one of them (NC State) look a little foolish, but the Jackets are a better team than the Pack.  Coming out of Atlanta with a 2-1 series win would really be an outstanding thing, and it'd help put some distance between the top two in the division and the next four.  But we shouldn't be terribly disappointed if one win is all we can scrape.  Expect a high-scoring series either way.


pezhoo said...

I see UVa plays Duke today in lacrosse. I have no doubt we'll beat them, because I have years of experience as a Virginia fan to draw on. It's like in 2002 when the basketball team was totally sucking, then had the nerve to beat Duke just to remind you how badly they were underachieving.

Anonymous said...

Anyway, kind of a big fortnight coming up with a six-obligation series against Graduate School. We have a tough opponent in the Professors, and on the road too. The Profs are three obligations back of the Students, but with a tougher semester under their belt so far. Major employment positioning is at stake against a team that traditionally grades very hard.