Simpson leads all of Division I with a .422 average and is seeking to become the first Tech player since Mark Teixeira in 2000 to finish the season at .400 or better. Simpson’s pursuit of the Division I title and the .400 mark in general has not received significant attention in part because he had not been included in the NCAA rankings until Friday. To be included in the national rankings, NCAA rules require that players appear in at least 75% of their team’s games and average a minimum of 3.0 plate appearances per game. Simpson, who bats leadoff, had no problem with the latter, but because he had missed 13 games in March and early April with injury, did not have enough games to qualify until Tech played Pittsburgh on Thursday, which was his 39th game and Tech’s 52nd.
Simpson is contending, remarkably, with the same player that Parada is chasing for the home run and home runs per game crown – Texas first baseman Ivan Melendez. Going into Tech’s ACC Tournament opener Tuesday against Pitt, Simpson was just ahead of Melendez (.421). It is a stratospheric jump from Simpson’s average at Alabama-Birmingham last year, .288, a credit to his work with Tech hitting coach James Ramsey. Hitting ahead of Parada, who Sunday broke the Tech school record for home runs in a season with his 26th, probably hasn’t hurt, either.