Despite having the necessary RPI, Georgia Tech didn’t receive one of the eight national seeds in the NCAA baseball tournament field announced on Monday. But the Yellow Jackets coach and players are still happy with their draw.
The Yellow Jackets (40-19), with a No. 8 RPI according to the website boydsworld.com, will open its regional against Austin Peay at 7 p.m. on Friday at Russ Chandler Stadium. Southern Miss, the regular-season winner of Conference USA, will take on Mississippi State at 3 p.m. in the other game. Tim Weiser, whose committee decided the tournament seeds, said Tech’s non-conference RPI and its ACC tournament loss to Florida State, with which it was competing for one of the national seeds, cost it a chance.
In an interview before Weiser’s, Tech coach Danny Hall pointed to Tech’s record in non-conference games (17-9) as a likely factor in the committee’s decision. He also pointed to the strength of the ACC, which like the SEC had seven teams selected, as another reason.
“They don’t want to stack four or five teams in the top eight unless it’s an absolute no-brainer, I’m sure of that,” said Hall, who has led Tech to 16 regional appearances in 18 years.
Rival Georgia (31-30), which squeaked into the NCAAs after a strong performance at the SEC tournament, must travel to Corvallis, Ore., where it will play Creighton in its first game. Oregon State, the region’s top seed, will host Arkansas-Little Rock. Despite usually trying to keep geographic ties when sorting regionals to reduce travel time for teams and fans, Weiser said the committee “must keep the integrity of the bidding and seeding process.” He said they felt putting Georgia in Oregon created more balance.
“I was a little surprised we’re going out there to Oregon State with so many ACC teams hosting, and they usually match SEC teams with them, but this is a great opportunity to go West and have some fun” Georgia coach Dave Perno said in a statement.
The ACC and SEC dominated the national seeds: Virginia (No.1), Florida (No. 2), North Carolina (No. 3), South Carolina (No. 4), Florida State (No. 5) and Vanderbilt (No. 6) were among the eight seeds. The 16 winners of the double-elimination regionals will advance to the best-of-three super regionals. Those winners advance to the College World Series, which begins June 18 in Omaha, Neb., at the TD Ameritrade Park.
Tech has a tough region. Austin Peay won the Ohio Valley Conference regular season and swept through its tournament. The Governors (33-22) are led on the mound by Jeremy Dobbs (9-2, 3.43 ERA) and Jack Snodgrass (3-6, 3.72). John Hogan (.317 batting average, 13 homers) leads them at the plate. The Govs have a .306 team batting average.
The Jackets are familiar with Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles (39-17) knocked Tech out of the Atlanta regional two years ago. The player most responsible for that elimination, B.A. Vollmuth, returns. He slugged two home runs in the same inning against Tech to win the regional. He’s still hitting, with a .303 average and 12 homers this year.
Mississippi State (34-23) had a disappointing season by its lofty standards. The eight-time College World Series competitors finished second in the SEC West with a 14-16 conference record. The losers of Friday’s games will play at 3 p.m. Saturday and the winners of Friday’s games will play at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Georgia, which will be making 10th appearance in the NCAA’s and played one of the nation’s toughest-rated schedules, also has a difficult region. Creighton (44-14) won the Missouri Valley Conference’s regular-season and tournament titles. Making their ninth tournament appearance, the Bluejays are led by Trever Adams (.392, 14 homers) and Jonas Dufek (11-1, 2.17 ERA). Game times haven’t been announced for the Corvallis regional.
Georgia Southern also made the field. The Eagles will play at South Carolina.
– Doug Roberson, AJC