Georgia Tech puts 6 on All-ACC baseball team ahead of league tournament

Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada was named to the All-ACC first team. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

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Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada was named to the All-ACC first team. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Six Georgia Tech players were honored with selection to the All-ACC team on Monday, but the prize that coach Danny Hall believed belongs to catcher Kevin Parada eluded him.

Parada, first baseman Andrew Jenkins and second baseman Chandler Simpson were named to the All-ACC first team for superlative performance in the regular season. Parada, though, was not selected as ACC Player of the Year, with that honor going instead to Clemson third baseman Max Wagner.

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Hall had campaigned for Parada on Saturday after the Yellow Jackets finished a three-game road sweep of Pittsburgh – Tech’s opponent Tuesday at 11 a.m. in the first game of the ACC Tournament in Charlotte, N.C. – saying that if Parada weren’t named the ACC Player of the Year “then something’s wrong, just because it’s so tough to catch every day and be a great hitter, and he’s done that.”

Hall did not back off much from his stance Monday as he spoke with media outside Russ Chandler Stadium while his team boarded a bus headed for Charlotte, saying that playing a highly critical position on the field and performing as he did in spite of the physical demands of catching deserved consideration.

“I just think that that probably should have trumped it, but the other coaches didn’t feel that way, so congrats to Max Wagner for winning that,” Hall said. “We’re proud and excited to have the six guys represented up and down the All-ACC teams.”

Wagner had a higher batting average (.379 to Parada’s .362), on-base percentage (league-leading .506 to .451) and slugging percentage (league-leading .867 to .746). The two are tied for the ACC lead in home runs (26), with Parada leading in RBI (league-leading 84 to 74), runs (league-leading 71 to 65) and total bases (league-leading 173 to 169). The awards were chosen by vote of the league’s coaches.

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“Max had a great year and it is what it is,” Parada said. “I can only control what I can control, and it was voted by people and I’m happy for him and I’m just going to keep doing my thing.”

Jenkins and Simpson have been superior cogs in Tech’s fearsome offensive machine. The leadoff man Simpson leads Division I in batting average (.422) and is the toughest ACC player to strike out (12.4 at-bats per strikeout). In the ACC, he is second in on-base percentage (.505) and third in stolen bases (21 in 25 attempts). Jenkins leads the ACC in hits (89), is second in batting average (.389) and third in doubles (20) and total bases (162).

Outfielder Tres Gonzalez and designated hitter Tim Borden were named to the second team, and outfielder Stephen Reid was named to the third team. Only Louisville (eight players selected) and Virginia Tech (seven) had more players selected to the team.

Tech has more pressing concerns awaiting in Charlotte than who was named ACC Player the Year. Tech, the No. 7 seed, will try to get out of pool play for the third tournament in a row in pursuit of its 10th ACC Tournament championship. After No. 11-seed Pitt on Tuesday, the Jackets play No. 2-seed Louisville on Thursday. Tech will need to win both games to advance, as the tiebreaker in the event all three teams finish at 1-1 is seeding, which means the Cardinals would advance. Having just swept the Panthers, Tech will try for a fourth consecutive win over Pitt in less than a week.

“Whether it’s hard to beat somebody four (in a row), I don’t know,” Hall said. “It’s the first game of the ACC Tournament and I would think that guys would be focused and ready to kind of take on the postseason, which is a totally different season than the regular season.”

Tech will start John Medich, who has been the team’s No. 1 starter for the past three weekend series against the Panthers in what amounts to an elimination game. Speaking Monday, Hall had yet to determine his starter for Thursday, likely either Chance Huff or Marquis Grissom Jr. Medich has a 5.72 ERA in 50 ⅓ innings this season.

“(Medich) was by far the guy that’s earned it, and we’ve got to count on him to give us a good start and then we can use our bullpen, but John’s the guy,” Hall said.

Medich approached the start with useful perspective.

“We talk about, ‘Hey, we’ve got to treat every day like it’s a championship game day,’” he said. “Now, we’re actually in tournament play, now it’s actually manifested itself. It’s a must win game to be able to play Louisville (in a meaningful game) and then make our way to the semis. I think we’re in a good spot. We’re playing good baseball and we’re doing the little things well.”

Hall expected Pitt to start ace Matt Gilbertson, who was named a second-team All-ACC selection Monday. Gilbertson gave up seven runs on nine hits over six innings in Tech’s 8-7 win over the Panthers last Thursday, although he allowed only one run over the final five innings of his appearance.

With its sweep of Pitt, Tech appears to be safely in the NCAA Tournament., which pegged the Jackets last week as the No. 61 team in the field, took Tech out of its “last four in” list but did project them into what would be a most intriguing four-team regional, with Georgia Southern (top seed), Georgia (No. 2 seed) and Campbell (No. 4 seed) in Statesboro.