The Hurricane baseball team will have a chance to prove its worth to the nation this weekend.
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, ranked No. 2 in the country, comes to Mark Light Field for a their three game series with Georgia Tech, beginning tonight. The ‘Canes are No. 13 and come off dismantling Boston College last weekend at Mark Light Field. The ‘Canes outscored their Big East opponents 35-13 in two games before Sunday’s game was called off due to rain.
The Georgia Tech series may have even more significance as head coach Jim Morris coached the Yellow Jackets from 1982-1993, winning four Atlantic Coast Conference championships.
Hitting coach Gino DiMare doesn’t think that Morris’s ties to Georgia Tech will have any affect on the series, however.
“I think the emotions of playing against Georgia Tech have died down over the years for Coach Morris,” DiMare said. “We have had plenty of chances to play them since he’s been here.”
The series will play an important role in the national standings, as the Hurricanes will have a chance to gain some national attention and improve their overall ranking.
DiMare feels that the polls have not given the ‘Canes the respect they deserve.
“We weren’t happy with our preseason rankings at all,” DiMare said. “I remember Coach Morris saying that it was kind of a slap in the face to not even be in the top 25 going into the season.”
“This series will give us a chance to move into the top eight, which is where we want to be at the end of the season.”
The Yellow Jackets (20-2, 3-0 ACC) are led by freshman outfielder Steven Blackwood and junior outfielder Matt Murton. The pitching staff is anchored by junior Brian Burks, who recently shut down the Maryland Terrapins in his first start of the season.
DiMare feels that Georgia Tech is very similar to the Hurricanes in several ways.
“Georgia Tech is a lot like us because they have many freshmen and sophomores playing key roles for them,” DiMare said. “They have many returning starters who are only sophomores, like us. They pitch well but they haven’t had any real challenges yet.”
The ‘Canes got some unexpected offense against Boston College from sophomore Richard Giannotti, who has battled injuries throughout the early portion of the season. The outfielder had a breakout game on Saturday, going 3-3 with a home run and four RBI’s.
Giannotti is happy to be completely healthy after rehabbing a partially torn left shoulder and is anxious to have more games like Saturday’s contest.
“It’s great to finally be over the injury,” Giannotti said. “When you’re hurt you have to work through it, and the mental aspect of the injury is the hardest to overcome.”
Giannotti feels that the key to winning the Georgia Tech series will be to play mistake-free ball against a team that prides itself on consistency.
“When two powerhouses go up against each other it usually comes down to one team making a key mental error,” Giannotti said. “We have to eliminate the mental errors, and you can’t emphasize that enough.”
One of the biggest surprises of the season has been the hitting of freshman Gaby Sanchez. Sanchez has yet to run into a freshman wall as he continues to provide power to a team that doesn’t have many home run hitters.
Sanchez has relied on discipline to avoid falling into a slump at the plate.
“I just don’t try to do too much when I’m at the plate,” Sanchez said. “I just go with the pitches and try not to think too much.”
Sanchez feels that the ‘Canes youth will not hurt them as they try to upset one of the elite teams in the nation.
“We don’t really care that we don’t have the experience that some teams do,” Sanchez said. “We know how good Georgia Tech is and we know what we have to do to win. We also know how good we are and how good we can be if we play hard and without mistakes.”
Eric Kalis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.