Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech pitching gets challenge from North Carolina

The offense hasn’t been an issue. The pitching is a different matter.

Georgia Tech may find out this week whether it has enough to compete in the ACC’s Coastal Division.

The Yellow Jackets (11-4, 1-2) open the home conference schedule this weekend with a three-game series against No. 11-ranked North Carolina (13-4, 2-1), the preseason pick to win the Coastal. Friday’s game starts at 6 p.m., with first pitch on Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Yellow Jackets began their ACC schedule by losing two of three to Miami. The pitching issues surfaced in the finale when they used 10 different arms in a 17-7 loss.

Xzavion Curry (3-1, 3.60) has been a solid No. 1 starter for Georgia Tech. The true freshman had his first blip last week when he allowed eight runs, five earned, in a four-inning start against Miami, a game the Yellow Jackets lost 10-8. Curry didn’t help himself with two errors, which led to three of the unearned runs.

Jonathan Hughes (1-0, 3.38) has been equally effective as the No. 2 starter. The redshirt freshman has rebounded from an elbow issue to pitch well. He allowed three runs in four innings against Miami, but didn’t get a decision.

The third spot has been probematic. Jake Lee made his starting debut against Miami and allowed seven runs in 2.1 innings. Keyton Gibson (1-2, 12.96) had started in the third spot against Western Michigan, Youngstown State and Belmont.

An option may be Ben Schniederjans. The junior is coming off surgery and threw five shutout innings against No. 12 Oklahoma on Tuesday. He allowed only one hit and struck out a career-high six batters in his first start since Feb. 23, 2015. He may be able to pitch himself into consideration to move into the No. 3 spot.

“It was awesome just to get back out there. It felt good,” Schniederjans said. “I’m comfortable in that starting role and felt good throughout the whole game.”

The Georgia Tech offense entered the week ranked among the top 25 in the nation in six different categories: slugging percentage (.565, second), home runs (27, fifth), scoring (9.1 runs per game, seventh), batting average (.328, 12th), doubles (38, 16th) and hits (173, 24th). The Yellow Jackets have scored five or more runs in 13 of their 14 games this year.

Three players are hitting above .400: freshman shortstop Austin Wilhite (.429), second baseman Wade Bailey (.424) and catcher Joey Bart (.406).

Bart, a member of the All-ACC Freshman team last year, is off to another great start. He leads the team with eight home runs and has 22 RBI. Bart was recently named to the watchlist for the Johnny Bench Award, given to the nation’s top catcher.

Bailey is hitting .424 with eight doubles and 27 runs scored, second-most in the country. Bailey and third baseman Trevor Craport have reached safely in all 15 games. He’s struck out only four times in 66 at-bats. Wilhite has put the ball in play, too. He’s hitting .429

The Georgia Tech bats will be tested by North Carolina’s pitching staff, which ranks second in the ACC with a 2.12 ERA.