Georgia Tech baseball placed in NCAA regional with overall top-seed Tennessee

Tim Borden (No. 8) and Tres Gonzalez (No. 3) celebrate at home plate after scoring in the fourth inning of Georgia Tech's 7-5 win over No. 3 Miami April 30, 2022 at Russ Chandler Stadium. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

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Tim Borden (No. 8) and Tres Gonzalez (No. 3) celebrate at home plate after scoring in the fourth inning of Georgia Tech's 7-5 win over No. 3 Miami April 30, 2022 at Russ Chandler Stadium. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Georgia, Georgia Southern, Kennesaw State also learn their regional assignments

Georgia Tech players and coaches gathered Monday just before noon to learn their NCAA Tournament assignment from the selection-show broadcast on ESPN2. If they hadn’t known previously, they learned from the analysts before the brackets were released that Tennessee was far and away the top seed in the tournament, Division I’s leaders in ERA, home runs per game and slugging percentage.

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Tennessee’s four-team regional was the first to be released on the show. On a graphic on the broadcast, Tech players learned that they were being sent into the lion’s den. The response appeared to be at first surprise followed by mild applause. Coach Danny Hall acknowledged that, as a team that was ranked 21st in RPI and had proved itself against a highly rigorous schedule, being sent to face the top seed in the tournament was not what he was expecting.

“I think I’d like to be in that room someday when they’re discussing all the metrics that go into it,” Hall said.

But it’s Tennessee for the Yellow Jackets in a double-elimination regional that starts Friday. As the No. 2 seed, Tech will play No. 3-seed Campbell, the champions of the Big South, at noon. Tennessee will face No. 4-seed SWAC champion Alabama State.

The Jackets are one of four state teams to make it into the field of 64. As the No. 16 overall seed, Georgia Southern will host a regional for the first time in school history and will open with No. 4-seed North Carolina-Greensboro at 7 p.m. Friday. Notre Dame (No. 2 seed) and Texas Tech (No. 3) are also part of the Statesboro regional.

Georgia will go to Chapel Hill, N.C., as the No. 2 seed in North Carolina’s regional. The ACC champion Tar Heels are the overall No. 10 seed. The Bulldogs will play No. 3-seed Virginia Commonwealth at 7 p.m. Friday, with No. 4-seed Hofstra facing the Tar Heels. It’s Georgia’s 13th NCAA appearance. VCU has won 15 games in a row.

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Kennesaw State, champion of the ASUN Conference, is a No. 3 seed in a regional hosted by Southern Mississippi, the overall No. 11 seed. The Owls are in the tournament for the first time since 2014, when they were upset winners of a regional hosted by Florida State and advanced to a super regional. Kennesaw State opens with No. 2-seed LSU at 7 p.m. Friday, while Southern Miss will play its first game against No. 4-seed Army.

“Lots of really good college baseball teams in our state, which is a testament to how good high-school baseball and amateur baseball are in Georgia,” Hall said.

Teams that advance out of the four-team regionals will advance to face another regional winner in a best-of-three super regional with a spot in the College World Series at stake. Tech would face the winner of the Statesboro Regional. Georgia would face the winner of the Stillwater (Okla.) Regional, and Kennesaw State would face the winner of the Miami regional.

Hall suggested that, given the selection committee’s pattern to send teams to regionals close to their campuses, that Auburn or Georgia Southern might have been suitable assignments ahead of Tennessee given Tech’s season. Auburn is the overall No. 14 seed, two slots ahead of Georgia Southern.

The No. 2 seed at Auburn is UCLA (RPI: 48). Notre Dame (the No. 2 in Statesboro) is No. 13 in RPI. Strictly by RPI, it could easily be argued that UCLA got the more favorable appointment over Tech despite being a worse team. But, the bracket is a puzzle, and with Florida State also at Auburn as the No. 3 seed, Tech couldn’t have gone there, too, as a fellow ACC member.

After the selection show, Hall spoke to the team, telling players that there is only one team in the country with more series wins against RPI top-25 teams than Tech, and that’s Tennessee. Tech has more than held its own against top competition. The Jackets are 9-5 against teams in the RPI top 15.

“I’ve told you guys many times – we can beat anybody we play, and I believe that,” Hall said. “You need to start believing. And we cannot overlook Campbell.”

Any feelings of dismay likely will be gone by Friday at noon, if not sooner.

“I know Tennessee’s a good team; we can’t look past Campbell, either,” All-ACC second baseman Chandler Simpson said. “We feel it’s a great opportunity for us to make some noise and make a statement for G.T. baseball.”

ESPN-Plus will livestream the Tech, Georgia, Georgia Southern and Kennesaw State games Friday.