Jackets in play-in game at ACC tournament

Georgia Tech first baseman A.J. Murray is second in the ACC with 15 home runs, with eight coming in the last 15 games. (GT Athletics/DANNY KARNIK)

Georgia Tech first baseman A.J. Murray is second in the ACC with 15 home runs, with eight coming in the last 15 games. (GT Athletics/DANNY KARNIK)

Georgia Tech and Virginia’s baseball teams will duel Tuesday morning in Durham, N.C., with a spot in the ACC tournament at stake and under an unusual set of circumstances.

Both teams would appear to be far more assured of getting into the NCAA tournament than their 50/50 chance of making it into the eight-team conference tournament. After getting swept in three games by Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., the Yellow Jackets fell to the No. 10 seed and will play No. 7 seed UVA to get into one of the two four-team pools. The game will begin at 11 a.m. and will be broadcast on regional sports networks (including Fox Sports South in the Atlanta market) and online on ESPN3.

However, Virginia was No. 19 in the RPI rankings released Monday, eight slots ahead of Tech.

“The ACC, year in and year out, is, if not the best, one of the best conferences in the country,” Virginia coach Mike O’Connor said Monday. “And one of the main reasons it’s one of the top conferences in the country is the balance of the league.”

Eight of the 14 teams in the league have conference records between 17-13 and 13-17. Tech is 13-17 but took four series against teams with better records (Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Virginia and Clemson).

More germane to their chances in Durham, however, they’re three days removed from one of their worst ACC weekends in memory, losing all three games by a combined score of 42-5, including a 22-1 wipeout in the middle game Friday.

“The weekend we had was certainly not what we wanted, but I’ll credit Miami,” coach Danny Hall said. “They have an outstanding team and played really well at home all year. So we’ve got to turn our focus to trying to win this tournament, and the only way we can get in the tournament is to win the game (Tuesday).”

Jonathan King will start for the Jackets. King has allowed four earned runs in his last four starts (34 2/3 innings) for a 1.04 ERA. If there is any hope to be taken from the weekend, it’s that Tech has rebounded well from stretches of inferior play. After getting swept at Louisville at the end of March, the Jackets won seven of the next nine.

That run was ended by a three-game sweep at Boston College and an ensuing loss to Kennesaw State. The Jackets then won eight of 10, but since then have lost four in a row.

Also, for better or worse, Tech has been in this situation recently. Last year, the Jackets won their ninth ACC title after getting into the tournament by winning a play-in game. They became the first team to win the tournament as a No. 9 seed. In 2012, they became the first team to win the ACC title as an eighth seed.

No team has ever won it as a No. 10 seed. Hall did not find much benefit in having traveled this road previously other than the knowledge that the team had won a title out of similar straits. Hall called the team a “totally different group of kids with different dynamics and different players.”


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