Originally created 05/11/04

Georgia Tech, Georgia to take winning streaks to Turner Field



ATLANTA -- While NCAA tournament fever heats up in Atlanta, razors are gathering dust in Athens.

Both developments are due to impressive winning streaks that have thrust the Georgia Tech and Georgia baseball teams into the national rankings and postseason contention.

The winner of Tuesday night's Georgia Tech-Georgia game at Turner Field will have bragging rights in the state for a year. Each team has won a one-run decision on the other's home field, setting up the decisive third game of the season series.

Georgia has won 12 straight games and is only one game behind the leaders in the Southeastern Conference. The Bulldogs (33-15 overall, 15-9 SEC) moved up seven spots to No. 12 in Monday's Collegiate Baseball poll.

Georgia's overall winning streak includes a school-record 10-game streak in SEC games. Georgia extended the streak with its first three-game sweep at Mississippi State, including an 8-6 win in 11 innings Sunday.

Some Georgia players have stopped shaving during the winning streak.

"That's the rule," Georgia coach David Perno said Monday. "You win and you can let the hair grow. They've taken full advantage. I hope they look like billy goats at the end of the year."

Following its weekend sweep of Duke, Georgia Tech has won nine straight games and has moved to within percentage points of first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Yellow Jackets moved up six spots to No. 15 in the Collegiate Baseball poll.

The chance to play at Turner Field is a thrill for college players, especially those who are Atlanta Braves fans. But Tech coach Danny Hall said Monday he has to remind his players there are more important incentives after the regular season.

"Our guys come to Georgia Tech because they want to get to the College World Series," Hall said. "The only way you can get there is to get to the NCAA tournament. For us, with the number of losses we have, the best avenue for us to get in is to finish high in our conference."

Georgia Tech (30-17 overall, 12-5 ACC) is chasing Virginia (15-6) in the ACC race. Because the Yellow Jackets have a one-game lead over Virginia in the loss column, they can control their fate in the conference race.

"If we finish first in our conference, I think that would lock down the right to host an NCAA regional," Hall said.

Georgia and Georgia Tech moved into Baseball America's poll at Nos. 24 and 25, respectively, Monday.

"We still haven't convinced everybody we're a good team," Hall said.

Georgia Tech was only 21-17 and appeared to have little chance of making the NCAA tournament before it began its nine-game winning streak. Along the way, the Yellow Jackets swept a three-game series at Florida State. It marked the first time Florida State had been swept at home in an ACC series since joining the league in 1992.

Tech plays host to Clemson in a three-game series this weekend. Georgia visits Auburn.

Florida and Arkansas each are 16-8 in SEC games to lead the Eastern and Western divisions, respectively. Georgia is second in the East, one game behind Florida.

Georgia is assured of no worse than a .500 finish in the SEC, and Perno says that should merit an NCAA bid.

"Barring a catastrophe, I think with one more win we're in, whether it's in the SEC or against Georgia Tech," Perno said. "We've put together a heck of a run."

But Perno is aware he doesn't have the only hot team in the state.

"You couldn't ask for more resources to promote the game," Perno said. "You've got the two hottest teams in the country in a rubber-match game at Turner Field."

Georgia spokesman Chris Lakos said more than 20,000 tickets have been sold for the game. Proceeds benefit Children's Heathcare.