Georgia Tech Baseball: Jackets get early season test with UCLA

4 Mar 1998: A general view of a baseball laying in a glove on the grass during an Arizona Diamondbacks spring training game against the Chicago Cubs at Hohkam Stadium in Mesa, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Cubs 9-8.
4 Mar 1998: A general view of a baseball laying in a glove on the grass during an Arizona Diamondbacks spring training game against the Chicago Cubs at Hohkam Stadium in Mesa, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Cubs 9-8. /

The Georgia Tech baseball team will get an early season test this weekend with a top-5 ranked team in the country coming to Russ Chandler Stadium.

The Georgia Tech baseball program will have an opportunity to make an early-season statement this upcoming weekend as the No.4/No.7 ranked UCLA Bruins come to Atlanta for a three-game series.

The Bruins ranked by as the No.4 team in the country and No.7 in the country by the coaches are entering the weekend with a 4-0 record. Last weekend, the Bruins swept St. John’s with three-straight stellar pitching performances. The Bruins outscored the Red Storm 23-3. They then defeated Loyola-Marymount by a final score of 5-0 on Tuesday night. Their visit to Atlanta will be their first time on the road this season.

The Bruins in 2019 are looking to top their 38-21 record from a year ago and a trip to the NCAA Regionals.

The Jackets, however, enter the weekend with a 2-1 record after defeating UIC and West Virginia while dropping a game to Richmond. Their mid-week game on Tuesday night against Georgia Southern was postponed due to weather.

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The Bruins pitching staff has yet to allow an earned run through five games and are keeping opposing hitters to just a .110 batting average. The Jackets will face a trio of pitchers this weekend, all coming off great starts last weekend including one freshman who had 9 strikeouts in less than six innings.

The Jackets bats, however, struggled in their final two games of last weekend against Richmond and West Virginia and enter this weekend with a team batting average of .238. If the Jackets can’t wake up their bats for this weekend, it’s going to be an ugly weekend for the team against one of the country’s best.

Pitching Matchups:

According to Georgia Tech’s game notes for this weekend’s series, the pitching matchups project to the following;

Friday: RHP Xzavion Curry (1-0, 3.60 ERA) vs RHP Zach Pettway (0-0, 0.00)

Curry and Pettway are both coming off strong opening-day starts for their respective programs and this should be a fun pitching matchup to say the least. Curry is coming into his own as a pitcher while Pettway is coming off a fantastic opening day start with six shutout innings.

Saturday: LHP Connor Thomas (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs RHP Jack Ralston (1-0, 0.00)

Thomas pitched seven shutout innings last weekend against West Virginia while striking out 10 in his first start of the season. Thomas has the potential to be a stud starter for the Jackets this season will look to build off a strong 2018 campaign once against on Saturday. Ralston, on the other hand, pitched six strong innings against St. John’s. He did have a rough campaign in 2018, including a 6.44 ERA, so we’ll see which Ralston the Jackets get on Saturday.

Sunday: LHP Brant Hurter (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs RHP Jesse Bergin (1-0, 0.00)

Hurter was expected to be the Jackets starter this past Tuesday against Georgia Southern but instead will make his first start of the season on Sunday in a potential rubber match. Hurter had an up-and-down season last year and will have one of his tougher challenges against the Bruins on Sunday. Bergin, a tall-and-lengthy freshman for the Bruins will make his second career start on Sunday after pitching 5.2 innings against St. Johns, striking out 9 in the process.

Players to watch for:

Georgia Tech C Kyle McCann:

McCann entered the season with the job of replacing last year’s No.2 overall pick Joey Bart. In the opening week of action, McCann got off to a hot start, hitting .308/.400/.769 with 2 home runs and 3 RBI. McCann has shown impressive power in his first two seasons while making a huge jump from his freshman to his sophomore season overall. He could put the nation on notice this weekend with a strong performance.

UCLA OF Jake Pries:

Pries is in his senior season with the Bruins and never has put up stellar numbers. He’s never hit above .300 and just 3 career home runs. That being said, through four games, Pries is hitting .500 and has reached base in 8 of his 13 plate appearances this season. That being said, despite not having much power, Pries has 3 extra-base hits (1 double, 2 triples) out of his five hits entering this weekend’s matchup.

Georgia Tech and UCLA will start their three-game series, late Friday afternoon with first pitch at Russ Chandler Stadium set for 4:00 pm.