Georgia Tech celebrates winning game ten of the 2019 ACC Baseball Tournament in Durham, N.C., Friday, May 24, 2019. (Photo by Sara D. Davis, the ACC)
Photo: Sara D. Davis, theACC.com
Photo: Sara D. Davis, theACC.com

Georgia Tech draws No. 3 seed for NCAA tournament

Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall wouldn’t divulge how he learned that his team had earned a No. 3 national seed prior to Monday’s NCAA tournament selection show, but he did share his reaction.

“Wow.”

After being projected to be a team on the bubble to receive a top-eight national seed — important as it enables recipients to be at home for both the regional and super-regional rounds — Tech’s draw was about as good as could have been hoped, perhaps even better.

“I was surprised that we ended up at 3, but when you look back on the body of work, who we played, our strength of schedule, our strength of non-conference schedule, winning all those series in the ACC, which were really hard to win, going down the stretch and then playing well in the ACC tournament, I certainly understand it,” Hall said. “I’m glad that the committee recognized how hard these guys have worked throughout the year to put ourselves in this position.”

Tech will be at home for its regional along with No. 2 seed Auburn, No. 3 Coastal Carolina and No. 4 seed Florida A&M. Tech will start the double-elimination round against Florida A&M at 7 p.m. Friday at Russ Chandler Stadium. It will be the Yellow Jackets’ first home regional assignment since 2011.

After falling to North Carolina on Sunday at the ACC tournament championship, Tech was No. 8 in RPI. Typically, especially with power-conference teams, the tournament selection committee’s seedings for the top eight don’t vary much from RPI rankings, especially at the very top. In the past 10 tournaments 2009-2018, 37 of the 40 teams to receive a top-four seed were ranked in the top six in RPI at the time of selection and 31 were ranked in the top four.

Only one team rose from lower in RPI than Tech did to make it into the top four (Louisville in 2015, from No. 12). No national poll had Tech higher than sixth going into the ACC tournament. The Jackets also didn’t win the ACC regular-season title or the conference tournament, although they did win the Coastal Division and reached the tournament final.

Selection committee chair Ray Tanner, the athletic director at South Carolina, pointed to Tech’s 22-12 record against ACC opponents (including in the conference tournament), its winning nine out of 10 ACC regular-season series, its series win over Georgia (which earned the No. 4 seed) and its strong non-conference strength of schedule. Tech is 41-17 overall.

“I think maybe they might have been overlooked a little bit even going into the selections,” Tanner said on the selection show. “The merits jumped out at Georgia Tech being a top seed.”

Being the No. 3 seed provides Tech a potentially easier path to the College World Series. If the Jackets make it out of the regional round — something they haven’t done since 2006, the most recent of their three College World Series trips, falling at regionals eight consecutive times — they would potentially play No. 13 seed North Carolina. Tech took two of three from the Tar Heels in a weekend series April 5-7 but lost to them in the conference championship in Durham, N.C.

Being at home for the super-regional round — a best-of-three series — is no small benefit. In the past five tournaments, the super-regional host — whether it was a top-eight seed or not — has won 32 out of 40 times.

“I didn’t think we’d be here the past two years that I’ve been here, but being here is a great feeling and I can’t wait to see where it takes us,” center fielder Nick Wilhite said.

Auburn, which Tech beat in two mid-week games in April, is 33-25, No. 19 in RPI and tied for the eighth best league record in the SEC. Coastal Carolina is 35-24-1, No. 57 in RPI and won the Sun Belt championship by winning five games in a row out of the loser’s bracket in the double-elimination tournament. Florida A&M is 27-32 and No. 235 in RPI. The Rattlers won the MEAC tournament by winning four games in two days after falling into the loser’s bracket.

After missing the NCAA tournament each of the past two years, the Jackets have been one of the surprise teams in the sport, far surpassing preseason projections to finish fifth in the Coastal Division. The pursuit of a College World Series berth in Omaha, Neb., begins in earnest. All-ACC first baseman Tristin English called it a dream that he and his teammates have had since they were kids.

“It’s like, I want to go to Omaha, I want to go to Omaha,” he said. “That’s kind of what we’ve been preaching since we’ve been here is, we’ve wanted to go to Omaha. And now that’s kind of getting closer and closer. It’s pretty exciting.”

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