The Georgia Tech baseball team opened up the season with a weekend series against the Akron Zips, and I think it was a good microcosm of the season. When Buck Farmer wowed, the offense was lackluster. Dusty Issacs showed some nice touch on Saturday and the bats finally came alive, and Cole Pitts showed some great improvement on Sunday but still looked to have endurance problems. The team looked good overall but you can still nitpick out some problems that are left over from last year. Hopefully Coach Hall and co. will have these all knitted up by the time the ACC season opens up when the real tests come.
This section this season will become synonymous with Buck Farmer. The senior had all his pitches on lock and his fastball even looked like it had more zip on it than it did last year. There was no sign of fatigue even late in the game; I think he was only pulled because he had a pitch count limit (he chucked 97 rawhides against 27 batters). The rest of the pitching staff performed quite well too. Dusty Issacs struck out six in five innings of work on Saturday, and Cole Pitts dealt six innings of two run ball and 7 strikeouts. Pitts had an endurance problem last year which he's clearly fixed, and only gave up three hits. New pitching coach Jason Howell has done a wonderful job pinpointing this pitching staff's weakness' and correcting them in a hurry. Look for pitching to become the storyline this season.
Two other things stood out to me this weekend: fielding and the young players. If you recall, I was worried about the defense coming out of fall practice with all the errors in the fall game. Those errors were clearly the product of rust and the lackadaisical nature of the exhibition games, as Tech only put two E's on the board the entire weekend. It speaks to the quality of the lower classman that only one of these errors was committed by one of their own (Matt Gonzalez), even though a substantial number of them played. Notable performers include A.J. Murray (.444, 3BB, 2 RBI) and Matt Gonzalez (.556, 1BB, 4 RBI). "Gonzo" also had one stolen base and is as quick as lightning. Rod McKenzie of gojackets.com has dubbed him "Speedy," which I like more.
What Needs to Improve
Despite all the good, there were several areas needing improvement, one of which was Issacs' performance. He only lasted five innings and was really shaky in the fourth, throwing 2 wild pitches in a row and giving up 2 walks and a hit out of 6 batters faced. He was luck Akron's Alvarez made a bad swing and grounded into a fielder's choice, otherwise it could've been worse. Then there was the issue of the bats on Friday. The guys that were swinging at the ball were trying to kill it, and the rest of the team was very sheepish. This may have been first game jitters on Saturday as the Jackets brought in ten runs, but its something to keep in mind.
Game by Game Breakdown
Game 1 - Akron 0, GT 3
There wasn't much to this game besides strikeouts. Buck struck out 14 their guys and they struck out 15 of Tech's, but the Jackets small balled their way out of it anyways. Taking advantage of Kyle Wren's speed and insane on base percentage was the key here. Wren singled on twice and was batted in by Sam Dove both times, once going from first to home on a deep Dove ball to right. A.J. Murray was brought in off a Gonzalez double to center for the only other scoring action of the day.
Game 2 - Akron 3, GT 10
This is where things got interesting for fans of the Joltin' Jackets. Lead by Daniel "the Palmetto Pounder" Palka (3RBI, 4-4 on the game), the team hit in 10 runs with a five run fourth inning. The Jackets also showed patience at the plate, drawing six walks. Brandon Thomas drew three of these in an especially pervasive outing. As for the pitching, Issacs went five innings, throwing a three hit ballgame and doling out six strikeouts.
Game 3 - Akron 3, GT 5
Cole Pitts threw 6 strong innings on Sunday en route to scoring his first victory of this young season, throwing 52 strikes in 77 pitches, striking out 7 and only allowing 2 runs and 1 BB. Definitely a performance we'd like to see him give every Sunday. Kyle Wren (.385) and Brandon Thomas (.375) each had good offensive outputs with 3 hits and a run scored. Daniel Palka added 2 hits to raise his batting average to .545, while Matt Gonzalez had only 1 hit in 3 ABs to drop his average to a still-team-leading .556. Zane Evans and Mott Hyde have had a tough time getting their bats going this weekend, with Evans hitting .167 through 3 games and Hyde hitting .091. It's not time to worry yet though -- these Juniors will be off and hitting really soon. (Another note on Evans -- he gave up a run, but he's a good choice for a closer, in my opinion. That kid throws GAS.) Loved the 2 good innings from Freshman LHP Jonathan King. He had a couple of freshman moments where he struggled with control, but given a little time he'll surely straighten that out.
GT takes on Ga. State at the Rusty C Tomorrow at four. The game will be broadcast on WREK (91.1FM) or wrek.org/listen, so tune in and support your beesballers! If you want to come and watch the game live, its $2 Tuesdays!