Georgia Tech pitcher Bailey Combs delivers a pitch against Georgia on Tuesday, April 25, 2017, at Russ Chandler Stadium in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Georgia Tech baseball preview

Tech 2017 record: 27-28, 11-19 ACC

Season opener: vs. Minnesota, 4 p.m. Friday

Here are three important issues heading into the season:

1. Setting the pitching staff

Tech’s five starters likely will come from these six pitchers: Xzavion Curry, Jonathan Hughes, Jake Lee, Connor Thomas, Brant Hurter and Hugh Chapman. Curry showed great promise as a freshman last season (team-high 74 strikeouts) and has improved command of his pitches, coach Danny Hall said. Hughes is a question mark. Drafted in the second round by the Orioles in 2015, he lost his freshman year to injury and then struggled last season with an ERA of 5.68. However, Hall said he’s regained velocity on his fastball and catcher Joey Bart said Hughes’ confidence has returned. Hall does need to figure out bullpen roles. Zac Ryan, who closed last season, has graduated, leaving the role to Jared Datoc. Other spots are undetermined.

2. Improving defensive play 

Hall placed a heavy priority on defense in the preseason. The Jackets ranked 12th in the ACC in fielding percentage and had a number of costly lapses in the field. Tech was 14-5 when it didn’t commit an error, 9-9 with one error and 4-14 with two or more. The Jackets also turned 43 double plays in 55 games after leading the country in 2016 with 1.27 per game, the highest rate in Division I. Hall noted the defensive play of outfielders Nick Wilhite and Michael Guldberg, which should help them earn playing time.

3. Turning to freshmen

The Jackets will have to rely on freshmen in the starting lineup. At third base, Luke Waddell, Oscar Serratos and Michael Guldberg are competing for the job. Hall called Waddell the best position player in the state of Ohio last year as a high-school senior. Serratos, from Grayson High, was drafted in the 14th round by the Cleveland Indians. Right field could go to Baron Radcliff, Colin Hall (Danny Hall’s son, who joins older brother Carter on the team) or Cole Neuber. Radcliff was an all-state quarterback at Norcross High. Tech has not lacked for impact freshmen. But they’re a variable, as they’re being counted on to contribute while learning the college game.

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