Yellow Jackets slide into super regionals

Updated: June 6, 2005, 10:39 PM ET
By Will Kimmey | Baseball America

Atlanta Regional
1. Georgia Tech (42-16) – automatic berth, won ACC regular season and tournament, No. 2 national seed, 22nd NCAA Tournament, sixth consecutive appearance
2. South Carolina (38-21) – at-large berth, sixth in SEC, 21st NCAA Ttournament, sixth consecutive appearance
3. Michigan (41-17) – at-large berth, tied for fourth in Big Ten, 18th NCAA Tournament
4. Furman (30-27) – automatic berth, won Southern Conference tournament, fifth NCAA Tournament

Atlanta Regional schedule
At Russ Chandler Stadium
Atlanta
Friday, June 3

Game 1 – South Carolina 6, Michigan 5
Game 2 – Georgia Tech 5, Furman 4 (10 inn.)
Saturday, June 4
Game 3 – Michigan 6, Furman 3, Furman eliminated
Game 4 – Georgia Tech 10, South Carolina 2
Sunday, June 5
Game 5 – South Carolina 4, Michigan 3, Michigan eliminated
Game 6 – South Carolina 8, Georgia Tech 3
Monday, June 6
Game 7 – Georgia Tech 5, South Carolina 0, South Carolina eliminated
Georgia Tech (45-17) advances to super regionals

Player To Watch
Shortstop Tyler Greene leads Georgia Tech in runs (74), homers (12) and RBI (69), but freshman Matt Wieters might be the team's best hitter because of his ability to make two-strike adjustments. Wieters batted .449/.528/.766 in ACC play, delivering seven of his 12 home runs and 43 of his 69 RBI in the games that mattered most. The freshman shifted between first base, catcher and DH while also posting the team's best ERA at 2.68 and recording six saves as the closer.

The Favorite
Wieters is hardly the only threat in a Georgia Tech lineup that scored 9.7 runs per game, the best of any team in the tournament. Seven starters compiled on-base percentages of at least .441, including Greene (.370/.457/.605) and third baseman Wes Hodges (.404/.477/.588). Junior outfielder/DH Jeremy Slayden (.349/.451/.570) has missed the last three weeks after having a cyst removed from his foot, but should return for regionals. The Yellow Jackets normally score enough that the 4.41 team ERA doesn't matter, though sophomores Blake Wood (9-1, 3.49) and Ryan Turner (7-2, 3.00) each have thrown well during the second half.

On The Other Hand
It's been a battle this year for South Carolina, a team that has reached Omaha the last three seasons. The offense has struggled to score (5.2 runs in SEC play) because hitters not named Steve Pearce (.344-19-58) have failed to replicate past success, and no one has made up for the loss of catcher Landon Powell on offense or in the locker room. The Gamecocks still have a staff that throws strikes fronted by senior righties Aaron Rawl and Zac McCamie, and power-armed lefty Arik Hempy has shown signs of life lately after struggling for the past year. Experience, guts and coaching give South Carolina a shot at an upset.

Bracket Buster
Don't consider the fourth-place team from a northern conference as a joke regional participant. Michigan beat Florida Atlantic, Georgia, North Carolina and Notre Dame in nonconference games because of a deep, experienced pitching staff fronted by senior right-handers Jim Brauer (7-2, 2.34) and Michael Penn (7-2, 2.83). Junior second baseman Chris Getz (.389) and junior catcher Jeff Kunkel (.390) head a lineup that batted .319 collectively with gap power. Kunkel and junior outfielder Mike Schmidt are named after former major leaguers but aren't related to them.

Don't Forget About Us
Furman swept its final conference series against Davidson just to make the league tournament, then breezed through that event to ride a seven-game win streak into the NCAAs. The Paladins knocked off Tennessee once and South Carolina twice in midweek games, so they won't serve as a walk-over. Cincinnati's Moeller High has produced Barry Larkin, Ken Griffey Jr. and North Carolina State freshman ace Andrew Brackman, whose prep teammate, 6-foot-4 right-hander Ben Hunter, has also developed into a freshman ace. Hunter was 6-3, 4.06 with 87 strikeouts and 29 walks in 63 innings for Furman.

Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.

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