Georgia Tech junior third baseman Wes Hodges was diagnosed with an early stress fracture in his lower leg on Monday. He initially thought it was a calf strain when the pain began in late March, but the duration and intensity of the pain continued to increase and prompted further evaluation.
Hodges has missed six of Georgia Tech's last 11 games and served only as a DH and pinch hitter in the others. The pain comes and goes, so he'll play sporadically throughout the rest of the season.
"It's entirely up to what he can tolerate, so it's a day-to-day, week-to-week thing," Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall said. "He's not going to get totally better until he can get totally off it. Doctors assured us by him playing on it, it's not going to put it into a stress fracture, so it's not going to get worse by him playing."
Hodges was batting .342/.430/.606 with 11 homers and a team-best 62 RBI. In Baseball America's ranking of the top picks for next month's draft, Hodges is No. 52.
"There's days where it doesn't feel too bad for him and days where he definitely hobbles around a little bit," Hall said. "To his credit, with everything he's got riding on the line [in terms of the draft], from March to April he was basically playing on one leg. I think a lot of guys in that situation may have packed it up, but he wanted to be part of our team and to help our team win. I don't think a lot guys would have done that."
Hodges leads a list of key Yellow Jackets battling injuries. Sophomore center fielder Danny Payne (.356/.488/.628 with 11 homers) was the team's top hitter until sustaining a dislocated shoulder, concussion and cracked ribs in an April 28 outfield collision, and hasn't played since. He is evaluated each Monday, but he has yet to swing a bat since the injury. Payne won't play in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and looks doubtful for at least the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
Tech closer Tim Gustafson (2-0, 3.94 ERA with four saves) likely won't be available until the super regional round. He's battled an arm injury and hasn't pitched in May. He started a throwing program Wednesday.
Junior right-hander Blake Wood (8-4, 5.40 ERA) has battled shin splits for most of the season. The injury doesn't have a direct impact on his ability to pitch, but it limits the amount of conditioning and running he's able to do between starts.
"If you took your two best hitters off any team and arguably one of your best pitchers, and still ended up where we are, I give my team a lot of credit for being where we are," Hall said.
Around the nation
• Fresno State suspended sophomore third baseman Beau Mills for the rest of the season for academic reasons. Mills led the Bulldogs in the triple crown categories with .355-14-58 numbers. "I take full responsibility for the suspension and apologize to the athletics department, coaching staff, my teammates and my family for the situation," Mills said. "I fully understand the academic responsibility of being a student-athlete."
• USC junior right-hander Ian Kennedy blew a ninth-inning save opportunity Tuesday against Cal State Fullerton, and Fullerton eventually won the game 6-3 in 11 innings. Kennedy, the normal Friday starter, pitched in relief because the Trojans had to win that game and sweep their three-game series against Arizona this weekend to finish the season at .500 and be eligible for the NCAA Tournament. The loss dropped USC to 25-30. The Arizona series will push USC to 58 games played this year, two more than the NCAA-mandated limit. USC won't be penalized with a reduction of games in 2007 because a three-game series at Hawaii won't count against its total as part of an NCAA initiative to encourage teams to travel to the island.
• South Carolina senior center fielder Michael Campbell was lost for the season after breaking the fourth metacarpal in his right hand. He finished as the school's leader with 255 games played, and his 295 career hits fell four shy of the record.
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