Tech looks for more consistency in NCAA baseball tourney

Few college baseball teams around the nation have been as up and down as Georgia Tech has this season.

The Yellow Jackets are hoping the pendulum takes more of an upswing as they begin play in the NCAA Tournament's Nashville Regional today at 3 p.m. against Illinois at Vanderbilt University's Hawkins Field.

Tech (34-25 and a No. 2 seed) has had plenty of good moments -- including series wins over the tournament's No. 1 (North Carolina) and No. 6 (Virginia) national seeds -- and not so good -- two losses to archrival Georgia, plus five losses by a single run and two more by two runs -- over the past two months.

If the Jackets are to get more of the former in this weekend's region, they will need more performances from their bats like the ones that produced five runs or more in 12 games since April 3, and less like the ones in the 11 games in which they were silenced for two runs or less, including three shutouts.

But as important as offense from sources like bashers Zane Evans (.369, 14 HR, 62 RBIs) and Daniel Palka (.339, 17 HR, 65 RBIs) are, an even bigger key may be Tech's pitching staff.

With the double-elimination format, head coach Danny Hall will juggle his rotation and give the ball to normal No. 2 starter Dusty Isaacs (4-7, 4.77 ERA) today against Illinois and hold ace Buck Farmer (8-4, 2.87 ERA) for Saturday's game against either host Vanderbilt or East Tennessee State.

It sounds like a bit of a gamble, but as Hall points out, it's one plenty of teams take in regional play.

"We have to look at how can we line up our pitching to try to win the tournament," Hall said during a media availability Thursday. "We felt like that was our best way to go to win the tournament. We're trusting (Isaacs) to give us a good outing in the first game of the regional, and I'm fully confident he's going to do that.

"In general, you're trying to match your best guy potentially against who wins that first game because that's a pivotal game, that second game, either way. If you lose (the opener), you have your best guy throwing to keep you alive in the tournament. If you win, you have your best guy throwing against a team that won that first game."

In addition to Farmer, Isaacs and fellow starters Jonathan King and Cole Pitts, the Jackets may also have to look for help from their bullpen.

Among those arms that may be called upon are several former Gwinnett high school stars, including 2009 Daily Post Pitcher of the Year Devin Stanton.

They also have a pair of Buford grads in left-hander Sam Clay and right-hander and 2011 Daily Post Pitcher of the Year Josh Heddinger, who has five midweek starts among his 15 appearances this season.