Tech excited to host NCAA baseball regional

Georgia Tech's baseball team gathered at the community room of a local apartment complex to watch the NCAA tournament pairings show on ESPN on Monday.

When the Yellow Jackets came up as the No. 8 seed, catcher Cole Leonida said the players let out a cry that was part excitement and part relief.

After going 1-2 in last weekend's ACC tournament, players weren't sure they were going to get a seed. But a strong record (45-13) and non-conference Ratings Percentage Index (10) swayed the NCAA selection committee. The RPI is a statistical measure of strength.

As a result, Tech will host Mercer (37-22) on Friday at 7 p.m. at Tech's Russ Chandler Stadium. Alabama (37-22) will open against Elon (38-22)  at 3 p.m. Friday in the other game of the double-elimination tournament. Losers of those games play Saturday at 3 p.m., with winners playing Saturday at 7 p.m.

The tournament winner will advance to the best-of-three super regional, which Tech would host should it advance. The winner will be paired with the winner of the Auburn regional.

"We feel really fortunate to be able to play on this beautiful field for at least another week, hopefully another two weeks," Leonida said. "Playing at home is such a huge advantage to be able to sleep in your own bed at night and be comfortable in the surroundings."

Two of the teams are familiar, while one is not. Tech has played Mercer twice this year, outscoring them 34-12 in two wins, and defeated Elon in last year's regional. Tech coach Danny Hall and several players agreed that it's good that they are somewhat familiar with Mercer, which made the tournament as champions of the Atlantic Sun Conference, but there's only so much they can take from that because the two wins were in mid-week games against mid-week starters. Hall said he'd spend Monday afternoon gathering information.

Two things Hall said he expects to see: big crowds since all three teams are within driving distance, and the Bears' ace on Friday. However, he wouldn't commit to starting his ace, Deck McGuire (8-4, 3.01 ERA). He said he wants to see how his team matches up against the others.

Still, he said, "It's hard not to pitch him."

Now that they've earned the seed, Hall and his players said they need to focus on advancing. To do that, they must execute and avoid the issues that helped Southern Miss eliminate them in last year's regional at Russ Chandler: poor defense in one loss, and a couple of bad pitches in the other.

"There's no tomorrow if you don't win," outfielder and senior Jay Dantzler said. "It helps the focus."

About the other teams

Mercer

Record: 37-22

RPI: 146

How they got here: Champions of the Atlantic Sun

Alabama

Record: 37-22

RPI: 15

How they got here: At-large berth; made it to the SEC tournament championship game.

Elon

Record: 38-22

RPI: 44

How they got here: At-large berth; eliminated from Southern Conference tournament by Citadel.