Danny Hall’s 25th year at the helm of the Yellow Jackets’ baseball program began with a hot 9-3 start but ended with an unceremonious three-game skid that saw Tech bounce itself out of the ACC tournament and off the NCAA tournament bubble. Before we preview what’s to come in 2019, let’s take a look back at what the 2018 season had to offer. For more advanced stats and analysis of 2018, head over to our Advanced Stats Autopsy from last spring.
Here’s how the season broke down (in a nice-looking set of tables):
2018 Baseball Finishes
|ACC Standing||3rd in Coastal, lost in ACC Pool Play|
|Final RPI Rank||#56 (NCAA)|
|Strength of Schedule||12th (D1Baseball)|
2018 Baseball Records
|vs RPI Top 25||7-16|
|vs Rivals (Athens, VT, Clemson)||2-7|
With a schedule ranking in the top 15 toughest in the nation, Tech was essentially poised to be on the NCAA tournament bubble in May 2018 if it went just .500 in conference play and took care of business elsewhere — and sure enough, given the conference and non-conference records above, the Yellow Jackets were just about there in late May. However, late season conference losses versus Virginia and Duke pushed Tech to the edge of the tournament bubble, with losses to Pitt and UNC in the ACC tournament knocking them clear off it. And so marked a third year of four without a postseason appearance for Georgia Tech, a program that had made at least an NCAA Regional in each of nine of the ten years prior to the recent drought. Questions swirled about Danny Hall’s future with the program after 25 seasons on the Flats, but athletic director Todd Stansbury dismissed any notion of Hall being on the hot seat, emphasizing that “(Hall) knows the game. He’s had a lot of success, and he’s willing to put in the time and energy to figure out what we (need to do), and he’s willing to make some changes if that’s what we need to do.”
Best game of 2018
This was a really, really fun game that really showed you what the Jackets could do when their offense was humming on all cylinders. Tech led 5-4 to start the bottom of the 5th inning and then proceeded to rip Duke a new [Aerosmith]:
GT vs Duke - 5th Inning Runs Scored
|6-4 GT||Solo HR from Kyle McCann|
|7-4 GT||Bases-loaded walk for Nick Wilhite scores Colin Hall from third|
|10-4 GT||3 RBI double from Wade Bailey clears the bases|
|11-4 GT||RBI single from Chase Murray scores Bailey from second|
|13-4 GT||2-run HR for Joey Bart|
|16-4 GT||3 RBI double from Austin Wilhite|
|17-4 GT||RBI single from Nick Wilhite|
Both teams tacked on three more runs in the later innings, but it was too little too late for the Blue Devils. Haters that complain that baseball is boring and too low-scoring: eat your heart out.
Joey Bart (Sr - C)
What more is there to say about arguably the best catcher Georgia Tech has had since Jason Varitek that the numbers don’t show? Bart slashed .359/.471/.632 with 16 HR and 38 RBI on his way to being a first-round MLB draft pick (2nd overall by San Francisco), winning the Johnny Bench award (given to the best catcher in the nation), and taking home the 2018 ACC Player of the Year award (among a bevy of other honors). The numbers tell most of Bart’s story - on average, he smashed the daylights out of a baseball, helping the Georgia Tech offense click and saving the Yellow Jackets’ bacon more than a handful of times. 2018 was the Season of Bart on the Flats, and his production will be sorely missed in 2019.
Wade Bailey (Sr - 2B)
THANK YOU WADE BAILEY!!!!— Georgia Tech Baseball (@GTBaseball) May 19, 2018
In his final at bat at Russ Chandler Stadium Wader did this .... pic.twitter.com/xgraijj6yX
But who is Batman without a Robin? Bailey complemented Bart with a slash line of .339/.420/.430 with 78 hits, 16 XBH, and 31 RBI. en route to another ACC All-Conference nomination and a second-team all-American selection from the National College Baseball Writers’ Association. Bailey was more of a scientific hitter than Bart, opting for blooping XBHs over mashing HRs — in fact, if you take away Bart’s HRs, he actually has fewer XBHs than Bailey (12 to Bailey’s 14). But like Bart, Bailey had a knack for coming up clutch for the Jackets - kicking off sorely-needed scoring streaks or making a timely defensive play, despite his stature (RamblinWreck.com lists him at 5’9”). He capped off his career on the Flats with a two-run HR on his very last home at-bat (video above), and if that isn’t the most Wade Bailey thing ever, I just don’t know what is.
Tristin English (RS So - RHP/1B)
Coming off a year lost to Tommy John surgery, no one really knew what to expect from English in 2018, but he blew any predictions out of the water with an absurd start to his season. Even though he cooled off towards the end, English still slashed .279/.324/.442 with a team-high 60 RBI, six home runs and a team-high 17 doubles to go along with his exploits at the mound, in which he tallied 57 innings with a 4.11 ERA, a 1.60 WHIP, and 51 strikeouts (for a 8.05 SO/9). He didn't break into the starting rotation until March, but even in limited time, English showed he had the talent to be a deadly two-way player for the Jackets moving forward.
Xzavion Curry (So - RHP)
In 15 starts for Tech, Curry notched an 8-4 record with a 4.18 ERA, 101 strikeouts, and 4.39 SO/BB. When he was on, he lit up opposing batters, like in his two-hit, 12-SO CGSO versus Wake Forest. But when he was off, Tech fans had better hoped their offense could produce a lot of runs because opposing batters murdered him, posting 17 HRs in Curry’s just 79 hits allowed. Nevertheless, Curry’s season was defined by the solid work he did as part of a Tech weekend rotation buzzsaw of himself, Connor Thomas, and Tristin English, putting together solid appearances versus Clemson, Duke, VT, and Miami, as well as other non-conference opponents. Curry showed flashes of his potential in 2018, and if he gets more consistent, he could be an important piece for the Jackets in 2019.
Connor Thomas (So - LHP)
An all-ACC first team selection in 2018, Thomas was a strikeout machine (in a really good way) in the Tech rotation, posting a 3.34 ERA in 97.0 innings pitched with an absurd 10.60 SO/BB and 9.84 SO/9. Thomas flat-out dominated opposing batters in his sophomore season, displaying Maddux-ian levels of control (ok, maybe not that good, but still, his Zone Control numbers were insane). Seriously, if you don't believe that he had the ACC’s batters wrapped around his finger in 2018, just read his season highlights on RamblinWreck.com — they’re insane:
Pitched in 16 games on the season for the Jackets, making 15 starts … Went 7-4 overall with one save on the year … Struck out a team-high 106 batters over a team-high 97.0 innings, which both ranked fifth in the ACC on the year … Walked just 10 batters all season long … Threw a team and ACC-high three complete games on the season – versus No. 6 Florida State (April 7), against Wake Forest (April 28) and at Virginia (May 12) … Held opponents to a .241 batting average on the season … Totaled eight quality starts on the year … Struck out 10 batters or more twice, including an ACC and career-high 17 batters versus Wake Forest (April 27) … Led the ACC in fewest walks allowed per nine innings (0.93) and in strikeout-to-walk ratio (10.60) on the year ...
Thomas is the best pitcher on the Yellow Jackets staff, and he is not afraid to show you why. This guy is Tech’s ace of the future (or, at least, the next two years).
The 2018 season set up some obvious themes for 2019, including:
Who will step in to replace the reliable clutch bats of Joey Bart and Wade Bailey?
How will Danny Hall manage his pitching staff to avoid an end-of-season swoon (especially with series versus conference foes Pitt, Duke, and VT, as well as the Spring Classic vs Athens to cap off the season)?
How will new pitchers Luke Bartnicki (Fr) and Amos Willingham (JuCo transfer - Jr) fit into the existing weekend rotation of English, Curry, and Thomas?
Can the Jackets leap back into the postseason fold for the first time since 2016? Can they compete with UNC and Duke for the division title (and maybe even the conference title)? Are they a dark-horse candidate for Omaha?
How will a younger Tech team handle a rigorous schedule that includes the likes of #5 UCLA and #22 Auburn (per D1Baseball), as well as the usual parade of tough ACC contenders (including #7 UNC and #24 Clemson)?
How will the Yellow Jackets look under new uniform provider Adidas? (previous uniform teases below)
|￣￣￣￣￣ |— Georgia Tech Baseball (@GTBaseball) January 15, 2019
| ONE |
| MONTH |
| UNTIL |
| OPENING |
| DAY |
/ づ pic.twitter.com/6txTKHEQUq
Only 15 more days until we find out what’s in store for 2019. Keep it locked here for a wealth of preseason coverage about all things Georgia Tech baseball as we get set for Opening Weekend in the Atlanta Challenge!
Anything we missed from 2018? Anything you’d like to see when previewing the 2019 baseball season? Let us know in the comments below!