Tech begins play in regional

By Jeffery Armstrong

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets baseball team should be ready to roll as they host the Stetson University Hatters in the NCAA Atlanta Regional, a double-elimination tournament scheduled for tonight through June 1 at Tech's Russ Chandler Stadium.

Hopefully for the Jackets, the four days they have had to rest will be enough time to recharge their stingers for NCAA play. Game time is slated for 7 p.m. Game times for Saturday are 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday's championship game is at 1 p.m. and if necessary, a second game will follow 45 minutes after the first game ends.

Tech (44-16) is the No. 1 seed in the regional; Stetson (39-22) is the No. 4 seed.

Tech's top hitters are Matt Murton, a junior left-fielder and former Eagle's Landing High School standout, who sports a .307 average, 13 home runs and a team-leading 55 RBIs; sophomore catcher Mike Nickeas, who leads the team with a .336 average with seven homers and 44 RBIs, and Owings, who has a team-leading 14 home runs.

It will be a battle of Carolinas in the earlier game as the No. 2 seed, the South Carolina Gamecocks (39-20), will play the No. 3 seed East Carolina Pirates (33-25-1) at 3 p.m. today.

The Jackets will face a Stetson team that is making its fourth straight NCAA appearance and 13th overall, compiling a 13-24 playoff record. The Hatters, out of DeLand, Fla., advanced to the Atlantic Sun Conference finals Sunday, losing to Jacksonville 7-1.

Stetson is led by junior third baseman Brian Snyder, an all-Atlantic Sun first-team member. Snyder led the Hatters in 11 offensive categories, including batting average (.398), runs scored (63), hits (86), home runs (10), slugging percentage (.671) and stolen bases (12).

A-Sun second-team outfielder Ian Church is also dangerous offensively, sporting a .352 average with eight homers and 34 RBIs. Church hit three homers in an earlier game this season.

A-Sun second-team pitchers Cy McCuen (9-4, 3.73 ERA, 62 strikeouts) and Roger Lincoln (5-8, 4.85, 72 strikeouts, eight saves) anchor the Hatters' rotation.

Tech can't let its guard down against the Hatters n they had 25 come-from-behind victories this year and they scored the game-winning run in their last at-bat 14 times. Hatters head coach Pete Dunn knows he's in for a battle with the Jackets.

"I don't know too much about Georgia Tech, but they must be pretty durable and pretty tough to win three games in one day to win the ACC Championship," Dunn said on the Stetson website.

Here's what Dunn needs to know about the 2003 ACC champs: Tech's pitchers are led by 6-9 junior left-hander Kyle Bakker, who owns an 8-2 record and a 4.05 earned run average; freshman right-hander Micah Owings, the ACC Rookie of the Year, who has a 9-2 record and a 3.86 ERA and senior righty Chris Goodman, who has an 8-3 record and a 3.84 ERA. Junior Brian Burks, the ACC Tournament MVP, is the bullpen ace with a 5-1 record, eight saves and 3.36 ERA.

Georgia Tech is making its 20th NCAA appearance, including its 18th trip in the last 19 years, and the Jackets have a record of 43-38 in NCAA play. Tech reached the College World Series last year and in 1994.