Georgia Tech makes NCAA tournament, headed to Athens Regional

If there was a sudden burst of air felt above from Russ Chandler Stadium about 12:28 p.m. Monday, it was the collective sigh of relief from the Georgia Tech baseball team. Tech finally saw its name pop up on the 64-team NCAA Tournament bracket about 30 minutes into an hour-long selection show.

The Jackets (31-23), shown live during the ESPN2 broadcast of the selection show, burst into a jubilant celebration after that moment. Coach Danny Hall’s team was squarely on the bubble going into Monday’s announcement.

“I think you saw in that reaction, that was a month and a half of pent-up emotion and worry and stress getting relieved to know that we had made the field,” senior relief pitcher Ben King said Monday.

King and the Jackets, despite losing four of their last five and being outscored 25-9 last week in two games at the ACC tournament, got into the field of 64 thanks largely to an RPI of 49 and winning six series inside the highly regarded ACC. Tech also had 14 wins against teams inside Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 of the RPI.

“We thought our body of work was really good,” Hall said Monday. “But then it comes down to watching some of these other teams play in their conference tournaments and teams stealing bids. You always worry about that. And I’ve been on the other end of it where you’ve been on that bubble and you don’t get in. I don’t know that we felt great about it, but we felt deserving, I’ll say it like that. I feel like our league is the No. 2 RPI league and that we would get eight teams in. So felt good, but until they tell you on Monday you just can’t count on it.”

The Jackets will head to Athens where they’ll open postseason play at 7 p.m. Friday against North Carolina Wilmington (39-19). The Seahawks won the Coastal Athletic Conference to earn an automatic bid into the tournament.

On Saturday, Tech will face either Army (31-21), champions of the Patriot League, or Georgia (39-15), the No. 7 overall national seed. Tech lost both regular-season games to UGA in March, 11-9 at Coolray Field and 3-1 in Athens. The March 1 contest at Russ Chandler Stadium was suspended due to inclement weather and eventually canceled.

The three teams still alive Sunday will play for the right to advance to a Super Regional. The winner of the Raleigh (N.C.) Regional, which includes North Carolina State, Bryant, James Madison and South Carolina, will face the winner of the Athens Regional.

“Just gotta play your best baseball,” Hall said of the weekend ahead. “That includes everything, like, we have to coach well, we have to play well, you have to pitch it, you have to get timely hits, you have to play good defense, hopefully some breaks go your way. I’m excited we’re staying in the state, honestly, to play. I think it’s great for our fans, it’s great for our parents, travel’s real easy to get up to Athens. A lot of positives for that, but at the end of the day you gotta play really well because everybody you’re playing is good.”

Tech is making it 35th regional appearance after missing the postseason in 2023. The Jackets have not won a regional since 2006, also the last time they advanced to the College World Series.

This year’s Tech team made its hay on the offensive side where it is currently ninth nationally in on-base percentage (.425), 10th in walks drawn (334), 20th in batting average (.311) and 25th in slugging percentage (.525). Freshman Drew Burress has been the catalyst thanks to 23 home runs and 65 RBIs. Catcher Matthew Ellis has driven in 58 and totaled 16 homers and senior John Giesler has a team-leading 16 doubles.

But Hall’s team finished last in the ACC in ERA (6.65) and 11th in WHIP (1.62) and hits allowed per nine innings (10.1).

Tech last played in a regional in Athens in 2008.

“All we can do is try to show up and play our best baseball,” King said. “I still don’t really think that we have had a weekend where we’ve clicked and where everybody has been playing to the best of their capabilities at the same time. Every team that’s in the tournament at this point is a great team. All we can do at this point is go and take care of our business and trust our process and be comfortable with the result at that point and have no regrets looking back saying that we did everything in our power to go out and compete in those games.”