Georgia Tech

This Pike County native could go pro after NCAA tourney. It hasn’t been an easy journey.

Georgia Tech’s Tristin English (11) celebrates with teammates after a walk-off RBI-double in the ninth inning to give the Yellowjackets a 5-4 victory over Duke in an NCAA college baseball game at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Durham, N.C., Friday, May 24, 2019  (Robert Willett/The News & Observer via AP)
Georgia Tech’s Tristin English (11) celebrates with teammates after a walk-off RBI-double in the ninth inning to give the Yellowjackets a 5-4 victory over Duke in an NCAA college baseball game at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Durham, N.C., Friday, May 24, 2019 (Robert Willett/The News & Observer via AP) The News & Observer via AP

Tristin English has faced more than his share of obstacles since making the decision to play baseball at Georgia Tech. There have been stops and starts due to various injuries over the last four years. But as the Yellow Jackets prepare to begin play in the NCAA Atlanta Regional, English is a key piece on a team that enters the NCAA playoffs as the No. 3 team.

English, who graduated from Pike County High School, was recently named to the All-ACC baseball team for the third time. The only other Yellow Jackets with similar honors are Jason Varitek and Eric Patterson, who both reached the major leagues.

“Pretty good company,” coach Danny Hall said. “I fully expect this guy to keep playing for a long time.”

But it hasn’t always been a smooth journey.

English was expected to be a pitcher when he signed with Tech, but a bone spur kept him off the mound as a freshman and he was asked to play first base. All he did was hit .315, drive in 44 runs and earn a spot on the All-ACC team.

On the eve of his sophomore season, English unexpectedly blew out his right arm and needed Tommy John reconstructive surgery. He missed the entire 2017 campaign and received a medical redshirt.

He returned in 2018, played first base and eventually worked his way back into the starting rotation. English hit .286 with 10 homers and 73 RBI and made nine starts on the mound, going 2-4 with a 4.41 ERA. He was on the All-ACC team as a two-way player.

This year he was expected to reprise that role — play first base and pitch on the weekends. But that plan went awry just before the season began when he developed a sore shoulder. Although his injury prevented English from being in the starting rotation and limited his time on the mound, he became the team’s closer and has saved five games.

“They’ve used me in certain situations and overall it’s been pretty good for the team,” he said. “I miss it. (Pitching) is something I really enjoy doing, but at the same time I enjoy winning more.”

It hasn’t hurt his offense; he’s batting .315 with 17 homers. He’s battled through some injuries there, too. He was hit on the wrist by a pitch against Boston College and missed a week. He was hit on the thumb by a pitch against Clemson, but played through the pain – and had 10 RBI in those three games.

English has been especially tough against teams within the league. Against ACC competition, he’s batting .403 with 10 homers and an .896 slugging percent — ranking first in each category. Not bad considering the ACC has eight teams in the NCAA playoffs.

“He’s saved the best for last,” Hall said. “He’s having a tremendous year offensively and has been very important for us in our bullpen. I’m thankful he’s finally healthy.”

English is also one of the team’s emotional leaders. He’s quite demonstrative after a dramatic moment, often pounding his chest as he celebrates a home run or a save. He had a couple of big moments last week at the ACC Championship, particularly a ninth-inning double off the wall that beat Duke and put the Yellow Jackets in the semifinals.

“Right now we’re playing with a chip on our shoulder,” English said. “We’ve played with a chip on our shoulder all year. We can get locked in and when we’re locked in, we’re dangerous. “

English is expected to be chosen next month in the Major League Baseball draft and sign to play professionally when the Yellow Jackets are finished. He was drafted in the 39th round by the Cleveland Indians after he graduated from high school, but opted to attend school. He has one more season of eligibility remaining, but no one expects him to use it.

“I don’t think we’ll see him after this year,” Hall said.

Georgia Tech will host Florida A&M on Friday at 7 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA Atlanta Regional. The opening game features Auburn vs. Coastal Carolina at noon.

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