Jackets in the NCAA tournament after all

Georgia Tech squeezed off the bubble and into the NCAA tournament field. Monday, the tournament selection committee awarded the Yellow Jackets a No. 2 seed in the Gainesville, Fla., region, where they’ll be in a four-team bracket with host Florida, No. 3 seed Connecticut and No. 4 seed Bethune-Cookman. Tech will play Connecticut, the American Athletic Conference champion, Friday at 1 p.m.

A No. 2 seed was a surprise to bracketologists, who tabbed the Jackets to be among the last teams in the field. Particularly troublesome was series losses in the final three weekends of the regular season followed by a 1-3 mark in the ACC tournament this past weekend in Durham, N.C. But it’s now all in the past.

“It is a whole new season,” coach Danny Hall said.

As it turned out, the Jackets weren’t even the last ACC team to get in. Wake Forest, Duke and Boston College all made it into the field as No. 3 seeds. Altogether, 10 ACC teams were selected, setting a conference record and tying the NCAA mark. The Jackets are in the NCAA tournament for the 20th time in Hall’s 23 seasons.

Hall said he had a “pretty high” degree of confidence before the announcement, based on the team’s April sweep of Coastal Carolina (ranked 12th in RPI) and road series wins over North Carolina (19th in RPI) and Clemson (sixth).

“So I think there was a lot of things on our resume that gave me confidence that we were going to get in,” Hall said. “And then when I saw (Sunday) night that there were six ACC regional sites, I’m like, that committee respects what was done this year in the ACC.”

The Gators received the No. 1 overall seed for the tournament. They are ranked No. 1 in RPI and are 47-13, including 29-4 at home. Tech was in the Gainesville regional in 2012, losing to the Gators in the regional final.

“If you’re going to go to (the College World Series), you’ve got to beat the best guys anyway, so you might as well start with the regional,” outfielder Matt Gonzalez said.

The inclusion in the field was another turn in a season full of them, including injuries that sidelined pitchers Jonathan Hughes, Jonathan King and Tristin English (English was still able to play the field and hit), a 12-0 start that was followed by a four-game losing streak. The Jackets hit peaks such as the series wins over Clemson and Coastal Carolina, but then finished the regular season with series losses to Miami, Virginia and Boston College.

The final bump was a 12-inning loss to N.C. State in Durham last Saturday, when the Jackets had the Wolfpack down to their last out in the ninth with nobody on but allowed them to send the game to extra innings.

To advance out of Gainesville, Tech will almost certainly have to get a win from ace Brandon Gold, perhaps a long outing from reliever Matthew Gorst and productive offense from a team that is 22nd nationally in batting average (.307) and 21st in home runs per game (1.05) but batted just .206 with four extra-base hits in pool play. On the other hand, the Jackets staff limited Miami, Florida State and N.C. State to .231 hitting, but also allowed 11 extra-base hits, including six home runs.