Georgia Tech

Big games ahead for Georgia Tech baseball

ATLANTA -- The Georgia Tech baseball team begins a key stretch of home games this weekend with a three-game series against defending NCAA runner-up and 15th-ranked Virginia.

The Yellow Jackets (22-11, 7-8 ACC) are currently in second place in the ACC Coastal Division, four games behind Miami. Georgia Tech plays 14 of its next 18 games at Russ Chandler Stadium and could earn a spot in the postseason with a nice run.

“This gives us a little momentum,” outfielder Daniel Spingola said Tuesday after the Yellow Jackets beat Mercer.

Starting times for the Virginia series are 7 p.m. on Friday, 4 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Georgia Tech has won six of its past seven after being swept by No. 7 Louisville. Virginia knows a little about Louisville, too, as the Cardinals went into Charlottesville last weekend and swept the Cavaliers.

Georgia Tech has been without slugging freshman Kel Johnson for 10 games, winning six of them. Johnson was batting .379 with seven homers when he injured his left ankle March 21. Johnson took batting practice before Tuesday’s game and appeared to be close to a return.

The Yellow Jackets will start sophomore Jonathan King (2-1, 3.61), junior Cole Pitts (0-3, 5.71) and sophomore Brandon Gold (3-1, 223) in the Virginia series. The Cavaliers are likely to counter with Nathan Kirby (4-2, 194), Connor Jones (4-1, 2.89) and Brandon Waddell (2-2, 3.79).

Virginia’s pitching staff has better numbers, but Georgia Tech has better offensive numbers. Georgia Tech’s offense has been better than average all season. The Yellow Jackets rank fourth in the ACC in hitting with a .289 team batting average. Georgia Tech has no players among the top 20 in the ACC in batting average, but there are few holes in the lineup.

The Yellow Jackets led by center fielder Spingola, who has reached safely in a career-best 24 straight games. The leadoff hitter is batting .311 and had what proved to be the game-winning home run against Mercer.

Georgia Tech’s other top hitters are Arden Pabst (.320), who normally bats ninth in the lineup, left fielder Keenan Innis (.315), infielder Wade Bailey (.303), third baseman Matt Gonzalez (.286) and designed hitter A.J. Murray (.264, team-high 30 RBI).

After this weekend, the Yellow Jackets host a rematch against Georgia on Tuesday night. They close the ACC schedule with three games at Boston College and host three-game homestands against Clemson and Pittsburgh before closing the conference schedule with three games at Miami.