Georgia Tech’s Chandler Simpson leading NCAA Division I in batting average

Georgia Tech shortstop Chandler Simpson has been an offensive catalyst for the Yellow Jackets. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

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Georgia Tech shortstop Chandler Simpson has been an offensive catalyst for the Yellow Jackets. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada isn’t the only member of his team with the chance to finish atop the NCAA’s Division I in a major offensive statistical category. While much attention has been focused on Parada and his pursuit of Tech’s record for home runs in a season and his bid to finish first in Division I in home runs per game and home runs, shortstop Chandler Simpson is the new national leader in batting average.

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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.

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Simpson, from St. Pius, played at UAB two seasons before transferring last summer. Simpson has utilized his ability to make contact and speed to stress opponents. Going into the tournament, Simpson has the highest rate in the ACC of at-bats per strikeout (12.4) and routinely has beaten infield grounders for hits. Coach Danny Hall has said that in his career, the only other player he had seen who was as fast as Simpson was former N.C. State star Trea Turner, an MLB All-Star. Against Pitt on Saturday, Simpson pulled one of the plays of the season, scoring from second on Parada’s sacrifice fly to center.

Simpson’s .422 average is the lowest that it has been at the end of a game since it was .419 after an 0-for-4 game against Miami on April 29. Since then, he has hit .429 in the past 11 games and reached base in all but one of them.

In late April, Simpson was rated the No. 128 draft prospect among college players by D1baseball.com, a rating that likely has risen as his season has continued.

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