One week after playing its best series of the season, the Georgia Tech baseball team followed it up with its worst.
It’s probably not a bad time for the Yellow Jackets to see their archrivals from Athens.
“I don’t think we’ll hang our heads, because it is Georgia, so I’m sure it gets your attention,” Tech coach Danny Hall said Monday. “And the fact that you’re playing at Turner Field, I think, would certainly get your blood boiling a little bit.”
After being swept by N.C. State last weekend at Russ Chandler Stadium a week after taking two of three from then-No. 5 Virginia, the Jackets will try to revive their season Tuesday night in their annual Turner Field matchup with Georgia. Proceeds will benefit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Tech, ranked No. 19 in the USA Today coaches poll, has lost two of its past three series and three of its last five. The Jackets are playing their way out of a home assignment for an NCAA regional, which would be helpful, if not vital, to its hopes of reaching the College World Series for the first time since 2006.
“We have to improve in all areas,” Hall said. “It starts with pitching.”
Against the Wolfpack, which ran their winning streak to 14 with the sweep, Tech starting pitchers Buck Farmer, Dusty Isaacs and Cole Pitts lasted a combined 13 innings, giving up 14 earned runs and 22 hits.
Against the Bulldogs, freshman Jonathan King will get the start. King was roughed up against Georgia April 9 in Athens, giving up three earned runs in 3 1/3 innings before Tech rallied to win 7-5. For the season, he is 3-2 with a 4.01 ERA.
Tech’s run production has faltered, Hall believes, ever since center fielder Brandon Thomas was lost for nine games to mononucleosis. After Tech’s 2-1 series loss to Florida State March 22-24, the Jackets led the country in batting average at .351 and were second in runs per game at 9.3.
Since the March 26 game against the Citadel, when Thomas came out of the lineup, Tech is hitting .267 and averaging 4.5 runs per game. Thomas, not surprisingly, has also tapered off from his incinerating start. He was hitting .441 with an on-base percentage of .509 prior to his illness and is hitting .281 with an OBP of .343 since.
“Part of it is, we’ve faced some good pitching,” Hall said. “I fully get that, but we could definitely do some other things to help ourselves. … If we’re going to get into the postseason, we’re going to have to beat a good pitcher at some point in time.”
Tech is 27-13 overall with a league record of 11-10 — good for third in the Coastal Division and sixth best in the ACC — and an RPI ranking, according to boydsworld.com, of 22. The Jackets still have time to get back in the hunt for hosting duties for an NCAA regional, but they’re running out of highway.
Beating Georgia and then winning the weekend series at Clemson, ranked No. 13 in RPI, would be a good start. No. 1 North Carolina comes to Tech two weekends after that for another opportunity. But the Jackets will need more consistent play to have much of a shot.
“The only people that can make that happen is us,” Hall said. “And I mean everybody, coaches and players. We’ve just got to, as I said, look forward to what we have down the stretch and continue to work hard to get better.”
It would start with a defeat of the reeling Bulldogs. Tech has won three in a row and nine of the past 12 against Georgia. Hall is 40-29 against the Bulldogs over his Tech career.