DeCock

Another Bard on mound

Staff WriterMay 26, 2011 

— When it comes to pitchers in these parts, the name Bard is a familiar one. For three years, Daniel Bard was a star at North Carolina, part of a one-two punch at the top of the Tar Heels' rotation along with lanky lefty Andrew Miller.

That duo propelled the Heels to their first of four straight College World Series appearances in 2006, before Bard became a first-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox, where he now works as Jonathan Papelbon's set-up man.

All in all, not too bad a career, but for all that success, Bard never won an ACC tournament in three seasons at North Carolina. This week at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, another Bard is looking to fix that for the family - but not for the Tar Heels.

It's Georgia Tech closer Luke Bard, whose older brother was texting him throughout the Yellow Jackets' bus ride north this week, reminding him of unfinished business.

"They had some all-star teams up there - going to Omaha, guys playing pro ball off those teams - and they weren't able to accomplish that," Luke Bard said.

It's going to be tough for the Yellow Jackets to pull it off. Clemson was able to get an early three-run home run off Georgia Tech ace Mark Pope before piling on for a 9-0 win in the tournament's opening game Wednesday. With the Yellow Jackets behind the whole way - leaving 10 runners on base, including three in the bottom of the first - Bard never got into the game.

Georgia Tech will need to beat Florida State and N.C. State and get help elsewhere if Bard is going to have any chance at that piece of family history. Still, as far as the family goes, he's setting his own course.

A middle brother, Jared, started his college career at North Carolina before transferring to Richmond. All three went to Charlotte Christian, but when it came time to make a college choice, Luke decided to look out of state.

"I kind of wanted to do something different," Luke Bard said. "I wanted to do my own thing. Georgia Tech was just the right fit."

Luke doesn't throw as fast as Daniel, whose fastball approached 100 mph.

But he has been very effective in the closer role for the Yellow Jackets after pitching in middle relief a year ago, with a strong fastball and strong slider.

In 23 appearances, Bard has eight of Georgia Tech's nine saves, with a 3.32 ERA and 2-2 record. In 40.2 innings, he has given up 36 hits and 15 walks against 39 strikeouts.

"I think they're pretty similar," Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall said. "He doesn't quite have his brother's velocity, but in saying that, last weekend he pretty much sat on 94 (mph). His slider is a real good slider. I think there are a lot of similarities between them. His brother's a little taller, maybe has three or four more mile an hour on his fastball."

In the long term, Bard's future may be in relief or it may be in the rotation, Hall said. That was a toss-up going into the year. Bard was thrust into the closing role because of injuries and has done well.

Despite Georgia Tech's opening loss, this could still be a big week for him - and his family, including the brother who never won an ACC tournament with UNC.

"I'm sure he'll be checking in," Luke Bard said. "He's rooting for us, though."

luke.decock@newsobserver.com, twitter.com/LukeDeCock or 919- 829-8947

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