As No. 7 seeds go, the ACC baseball tournament has seen worse than Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets have taken series from North Carolina (No. 2 in RPI), Virginia (No. 3) and Virginia Tech (No. 15). With four All-ACC players on the roster — tied for third most in the conference — they nearly beat Florida State (No. 5) and will receive their 27th NCAA tournament bid in the past 29 years next Monday.
“We won’t sneak up on anybody this year,” coach Danny Hall said Monday, before the team left for the tournament in Durham, N.C.
The Jackets (33-23, No. 22 RPI) did their sneaking last May, when they made the ACC tournament on the last day of the regular season and then became the first No. 8 seed to win the tournament. Even without any ambushing opportunities, Tech does have as favorable a situation as a No. 7 seed could hope to have. Tech’s Pool B also includes the No. 2-seed Seminoles, No. 3-seed Cavaliers and No. 6-seed Hokies. The Jackets were 5-4 against those three teams this season, as were Virginia and Virginia Tech. FSU, ironically, was 3-6.
Said pitcher Buck Farmer, “I don’t think we could have asked for a better set-up.”
Farmer will start Wednesday’s tournament opener against FSU at 11 a.m. at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Dusty Isaacs will start against Virginia at 11 a.m. Thursday. The starting pitcher is to be announced for the 3 p.m. Friday game against Virginia Tech. All pool-play games will be broadcast on regional sports networks (including Fox Sports South) and online on ESPN3. The 1 p.m. Sunday final will be televised on ESPN2.
After a sizzling start, the second half of the Jackets’ season has been a largely unfulfilled quest to find their pace. Tech lost four of its last five regular-season series, interrupting the slide only with an upset of North Carolina to demonstrate again what the Jackets can accomplish when pitching, defense and hitting all synchronize.
“I think every once in a while, we play up to our competition or play down to our competition,” said right fielder Daniel Palka, a first-team All-ACC selection along with catcher Zane Evans and Farmer. “We’ve just got to stay focused and do what we have the potential to do this week.”
Whether it happens might be classified as a mystery. A week after committing no errors against North Carolina, the Jackets had eight in three games against Miami. In the series opener, Farmer — by far Tech’s most dependable starter — was roughed up for the third time in his past four ACC starts. In the second game, Isaacs, who at times has been dominant, didn’t make it out of the second inning.
Then again, the only Jackets victory in the series was credited to freshman Jonathan King, who gave six shutout innings in his second ACC start. It was the second time in three starts that he blanked his opponent over six innings. In the same game, the Jackets tagged first-team All-ACC pitcher Bryan Radziewski for four earned runs in five innings.
“We still show really good signs of pitching, really good signs of hitting,” Palka said. “We’ve just got to get back to where we’re doing both at the same time.”
As was the case last year, when Tech cleansed itself of its first sub-.500 ACC regular-season record since 1985 with the ACC tournament title, the Jackets hope to find renewal on a North Carolina ball field.
The difference between the regular season and postseason, Farmer said, “is everything kind of goes out the window once you find out what seed you are. After that, it’s a new slate. It’s go time.”