ATLANTA — Here are three things we learned from Georgia’s 17-0 thumping of Georgia Tech on Tuesday, as the in-state clash attracted a spirited crowd of 18,240 to Turner Field:
1. Georgia may be the best 17-25 team in the country
How else to explain the Bulldogs’ 17-run, 23-hit barrage against the Yellow Jackets, outside of random happenstance?
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Granted, Georgia had only scored more than 13 runs once prior to Tuesday — crushing UAB 14-2 on March 1 — and Georgia Tech tapped No. 4 starter Jonathan King for just his fifth start of the year. But from the get-go, the Bulldogs were the superior club, pounding the Jackets with line-drive singles and aggressive baserunning.
The result: A rivalry game that was largely academic by the third inning, after Georgia rolled for five runs and a 7-0 overall lead.
The one-night disparity between the teams mushroomed from there, with seven Bulldogs accounting for multiple hits — highlighted by Curt Powell (four hits) and Hunter Cole (four hits) combining for four RBI and five runs.
“We just threw too many balls up (around) the plate, too many pitches in the zone,” said Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall after the game. “(The Bulldogs) obviously played well, but (also) disappointing in the way we’ve played the last four games (0-4).”
It’s hard to believe the Bulldogs dropped nine straight from March 13-26 — an out-of-character streak that included losses to Appalachian State, Texas A&M, Furman, Alabama and Clemson. Perhaps this most recent 4-1 run (since April 14) will propel Georgia to a frenetic finish to the regular season.
At the very least, Georgia (which lost to Tech on April 9) got a big spoonful of revenge against a team that was sitting pretty for the ACC and NCAA tourneys just one week ago.
2. Georgia Tech has chosen the wrong time to muddle its NCAA-tourney prospects
A four-game slide does not a season make. But the Jackets (27-14) aren’t necessarily in a position to dictate their postseason fate, either, in the wake of getting swept by North Carolina State last weekend … and then falling big to Georgia.
The short-term signs of trouble cover all three phases — hitting, pitching and defense.
Offensively, the Yellow Jackets have tallied only six extra-base hits and 13 runs in their last four games.
On the mound, no Georgia Tech starter has gone more than five innings since Friday — and that includes outings from co-aces Buck Farmer and Cole Pitts, who surrendered 12 total runs and 15 hits over eight innings against N.C. State.
And against the Bulldogs, the Yellow Jackets were inefficient in the field, committing two errors and lapsing on a pair of wild pitches.
“We haven’t hit well. We haven’t pitched well. We’re not doing any phase of the game good right now,” said Hall.
On this night, Bryan Benzor and the rest of the Georgia arms encountered little resistance from the normally booming Georgia Tech bats. Kyle Wren was the lone bright spot, notching two hits and raising his hit streak to nine games.
In victory, Benzor (two hits allowed, zero runs over three innings) was particularly excited to make his inaugural start at the Braves’ home park (third overall appearance).
“Nothing better than pitching at Turner Field, you know, in your home state and against an in-state rival. Nothing better than that,” said the senior Benzor, a Loganville native. “It’s always good to beat Georgia Tech. I was ready to go. I was excited. I wanted to put my team in a good position to win.”
3. The Yellow Jackets still control their own destiny, in terms of qualifying for the ACC tournament
If the conference championship started today, Georgia Tech (11-10 ACC) would be the last entrant of the six-team field, joining division leaders North Carolina, North Carolina State and wild cards Virginia, Florida State and Clemson.
But that’s a tenuous hold on the No. 6 spot, with Miami trailing by just one game.
Luckily, the Yellow Jackets won’t have to do a lot of scoreboard-watching in the coming weeks, since they close out with upper-division programs like Clemson (this weekend), UNC (May 10-12) and Miami (May 16-18) before the ACC tourney commences in late May (Duke’s campus).
“It all starts with pitching; we’ve had four bad starts in a row,” said Hall, regarding a potential Tech turnaround. “The good thing for us, the next guy to pitch for us is Buck Farmer (7-2, 2.22 ERA, 79/16 K-BB for the season).
“He’s obviously one of the best guys that we’ve probably had at Tech in a long time, and I think he’s one of the best pitchers in the country. We have a guy who’s capable of ending that streak.”
It’s simple math for Georgia Tech from this point forward: Take care of the remaining league opponents (ideally winning two of three each time) … and a trip to Durham, N.C. will likely be the reward.