Last season, the Yellow Jackets dealt with numerous injuries and had one player start all 63 games, shortstop Connor Justus. This season seems to be no different as the injuries continue to pile up. The biggest injury so far, was losing starting pitcher Tristin English for the entire season because of Tommy John surgery in January.
The loss of English has forced coach Danny Hall to start freshman Xzavion Curry on Friday against BYU. Despite being a freshman, Hall has complete confidence in Curry’s abilities.
“Last time I started a freshman on Friday it was a kid named Kris Wilson,” Hall said. “I hope Curry turns out like Kris because Kris is in the Georgia Tech Hall of Fame. We have a lot of confidence in Zay and he’s really valuable to us. Not only myself and our staff, but our whole team believes in his ability.”
Pitching coach Jason Howell has been coaching Curry since he joined the team in the fall and has seen firsthand how great of a pitcher he is.
“He’s super athletic, has a really good arm with kind of a power breaking ball and really competes,” Howell said about Curry. “Nothing seems to faze him and we feel good about him. He’s throwing well against our guys no matter who has been at the batter box. He is showing really good command in the strike zone.”
With English out, and Jonathan Hughes and Jonathan King coming back from injuries, the starting weekend rotation is still not set in stone.
“That’s to be determined; we hope we do,” Hall said about having a solid weekend rotation. “Hughes is going to throw on Saturday, and he was in our weekend rotation until he got hurt last year. Ben Parr has won a lot games for us and has started a lot of games for us. Jake Lee had some starts for us last year. He’s a sophomore.
“(Keyton) Gibson pitched quite a bit for us last year, and then there’s probably a freshman, Jay Shadday, or someone like that who could step up in there and be a starter for us. We feel like we have a better pitching staff, but we are going to have to prove that when we start playing.”
Redshirt freshman Hughes went 3-1 with 2.45 ERA in 25 2/3 innings before an injury derailed his season early. Parr is a senior who made 25 appearances, mostly in middle relief, last season and posted a 7-1 record with a 4.18 ERA and 46 strikeouts.
Lee had 19 appearances, seven starts, last season and went 3-3 with one save and a 6.8 ERA. Gibson is a sophomore who played in 20 games, five starts, and posted a 3-2 record with a 4.40 ERA. Shadday ranked as high as No. 11 in the state of Georgia for left-handed pitchers by Perfect Game in Class of 2016.
One pitcher that coach Howell believes will turn out to be a great addition later in the season is Ben Schniederjans.
“A big surprise you can look for is Ben Schniederjans, who has stepped up and has thrown really well,” Howell said. “He is still kind of in his rehab stages, and he’ll be monitored if he gets into games this weekend or next weekend. He’ll be a nice one later on in the year.”
Schniederjans is still recovering from an arm injury that has had him sidelined since 2015. The Jackets will play BYU on Friday in the third annual Atlanta Challenge.