Georgia Tech baseball coach Danny Hall recognizes that if his team’s bats can get hot, anything can happen in the postseason.
The Yellow Jackets were placed in the Vanderbilt regional in Nashville, Tenn., with the No. 2-seeded Commodores, Illinois and East Tennessee State, the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament champion.
The Jackets (34-25) consider themselves one of the top offenses in the country, but often leave runners stranded while suffering through hitting droughts.
“That’s baseball. You go through streaks where you’re getting a lot of hits with guys on base, and you go through streaks where it doesn’t quite happen like that,” Hall said. “A lot of times, it’s the other team’s pitcher. The old saying, ‘good pitching is going to shut down good hitting,’ comes into play. So when that happens, you hope your pitcher is matching the other team’s pitcher and is shutting the other team down.”
First-team All-ACC selection Zane Evans, who has 14 home runs this season, said the Jackets’ hitting problems come from mental blocks.
“Once people in the lineup start hitting, others starting picking it up, too,” Evans said. “If we can do that this week, we’ll be a tough team to beat because we definitely have one of the top offenses in the country. Once the beginning of our lineup starts swinging it and the latter half starts picking it up, we’re pretty tough to beat.”
Tech is facing Illinois (34-18), who will trot Kevin Duchene (8-1) to the mound Friday. The southpaw was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year with his eight wins, equaling the most victories by a freshman in Illinois history. Duchene’s 2.67 ERA was good for eighth best in the Big Ten.
“I think it will be big to jump on him early in the game,” senior center fielder Brandon Thomas said. “If we can do that, we’ll maybe wear his confidence down a little bit. I know he’s a freshman, so I’m sure he’s going to be a little intimidated going against a veteran lineup like ours. Attacking him early would be huge.”
The Jackets made the tournament behind a strong regular-season schedule and top-25 RPI. Hall feels the ACC has readied Tech for anything they may see in the tournament.
“I think it’s prepared us big-time. When you play in our league, which is the No. 1 RPI league in the country, day in and day out, it’s going to prepare you for the kind of teams we’re facing,” Hall said. “I just feel like our league has given us great preparation for what we’re about to face in Nashville.”
Tech ranks No. 21 in the latest RPI, with a No. 4 strength of schedule. Six of their victories came against the three ACC teams in the top eight seeds (two victories each against North Carolina, Virginia and Florida State.)
“We’ve played some really great teams, so I think we’ll be prepared,” Evans said. “If we can play in the tournament like we did against teams in our own league, I think we’ll be all right.”
Tech will open at 2 p.m. Friday against the Illini, as the Jackets make their 27th appearance in the tournament in the past 29 years. Tech will start right-handed Dusty Isaacs. The game can be viewed on the Internet at ESPN3.