Key early series for No. 21 Tech

Georgia Tech freshman Kel Johnson's four home runs lead the ACC. (GT Athletics/Danny Karnik)

Georgia Tech freshman Kel Johnson has reached base by base hit in 17 of Tech’s 20 games this season. He also earned a 3.4 GPA last semester. (GT Athletics/Danny Karnik)

At this early date, the Georgia Tech baseball team has a chance to differentiate itself in its weekend series against North Carolina at Russ Chandler Stadium.

The Yellow Jackets, ranked No. 21 by Collegiate Baseball, can win their third consecutive ACC series with two wins over the Tar Heels, No. 18 in the NCBWA poll. That’s something they haven’t done since the 2011 season, which is the last time Tech hosted an NCAA regional. Part of it is the way the schedule has fallen. Not much is expected of either of Tech’s first two ACC opponents this season, Notre Dame and Duke.

However, the Jackets have been subject to inconsistent play in the past three seasons, in which they were 41-49 in ACC regular-season play. Last year, for instance, they took a series from then-No. 1 Florida State only two weeks after getting swept at Pittsburgh, which was 8-19 the rest of the ACC season.

Two primary objectives for the Jackets this season are earning a regional at home and advancing to the super-regional round for the first time since 2006 (Tech’s last College World Series appearance). Playing with more consistency and stacking up ACC wins are the most direct path. The Jackets have largely avoided notice to this point – they began the season unranked in all but one poll – but have handled business thus far.

The Jackets (15-5 overall, 4-2 ACC) have come from behind to win eight games. They lead the ACC in fielding percentage, are second in slugging and third in batting average. Interestingly, they lead the ACC in walks and are No. 19 in the country, which seems a pretty good marker for success. Of last year’s top 10 teams in walks, seven hosted a regional and/or advanced to a super regional or the College World Series.

Sunday starting pitcher Brandon Gold has been sterling, with an active streak of 22 consecutive scoreless innings pitched. He is 3-0 with an ERA of 0.61. Right fielder Kel Johnson is tied for first in home runs among freshmen nationally (six) and second in slugging percentage (.694) and RBI (23).

It’s a bit early to look too far down the road, but the team bears watching, and the series this weekend should reveal more.

Tech plays at 7 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. All three games will be broadcast online on ESPN3.

 


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