When the Georgia Tech baseball team staggered to the finish line, there was some question about whether the Yellow Jackets would be considered for the NCAA Tournament.
Head coach Danny Hall was never among the doubters.
Hall was confident that the Yellow Jackets (36-23) had accomplished enough to earn an invitation to the postseason for the 20th time in his 23 years at the school.
It turns out Hall was correct. In fact, it wasn’t really close.
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“There are only 64 teams that are playing, and you have to earn your right to get in,” Hall said. “I felt we have definitely done that throughout the year.”
Georgia Tech will be the No. 2 seed at the NCAA Gainesville Regional, the 28th time in the past 31 years that the program has advanced. The Yellow Jackets will open the tournament against No. 3 seed Connecticut (37-23) at 1 p.m. on Friday.
Georgia Tech is 6-1 all-time against UConn.
The other two teams in the region are No. 1 Florida (47-13), the top-ranked team in the country, and No. 4 seed Bethune-Cookman (29-25).
“We’re excited to still be playing this time of year because we’re all playing for a chance to get to Omaha,” Hall said. “It should make for a great weekend.”
Georgia Tech started the season on a high note with 12 straight wins and has persevered through some difficulties. The Yellow Jackets lost six of their final nine conference games and went 1-3 in the ACC Tournament.
But the NCAA selection committee was in love with the ACC and rewarded the conference with a record-tying 10 postseason spots. Six conference teams will host regionals.
The Yellow Jackets have a strong offensive team: They’re batting .307 and have eight players hitting .296 or better.
They are led by senior Matt Gonzalez, who needs six hits to become the third player in program history to reach 300 for his career. Gonzalez, the only Georgia Tech player named to the ACC All-Tournament team, is batting .370 with 10 homers and 48 RBI.
Outfielder Kel Johnson is building his own legacy. He’s batting .323 with 11 homers and a team-leading 52 RBI. The sophomore improved on all his numbers from a year ago, when he was named to the Freshman All-America team.
The pitching staff is led by junior Brandon Gold (8-3, 2.38), who is 4-1 in his past five starts, including wins over Coastal Carolina and Miami. He has allowed two or fewer runs in 12 of his 15 starts and has pitched at least seven innings in nine starts.
“When Brandon Gold is pitching, we’re as good as anyone else in the country,” first baseman Tristin English said.
But Gold might not start the opener against UConn. Hall might be willing to gamble with Cole Pitts (3-3), Zach Ryan (3-3) or Jake Lee (3-3) and a deep bullpen against the Huskies in order set up Gold to face the No. 1 Gators.
Reliever Matthew Gorst set a new program single-season record with a 0.41 ERA, which broke a 45-year-old record. Gorst is 1-1 with 12 saves and is a big reason why the Yellow Jackets are 31-1 when taking the lead into the ninth inning.
UConn won the American Athletic Conference tournament last week and will make its first regional appearance since 2013. The Huskies will send left-hander Tim Cate (4-1, 2.71) in the opener. The Yellow Jackets are 17-6 against lefties.