Trivia question: What’s Danny Hall’s worst record in 29 years at GT?
Answer: 7 games over .500.
The Jackets return from their 2016 NCAA Regional season (38-25) with several big holes to fill, especially on the mound. High school (John's Creek) teammates SP Brandon Gold and RP Matthew Gorst both parlayed stellar seasons into draft picks – and high enough picks to tempt them into going pro after their junior seasons. While exciting for them, the decisions left the already thin Jackets’ staff significantly thinner. Joining them as junior draftees were battery mate Arden Pabst and shortstop Connor Justus. The defensive skills of both will be missed. Finally, several seniors are gone, especially Matt Gonzalez, who also got a pro contract, along with backup catcher/outfielder Grant Wruble and pitcher Cole Pitts.
A Key Early Injury
Last week, we got bad news regarding sophomore first baseman/pitcher Tristin English, who was recruited as a pitcher and had been expected to contribute on the mound this year. Playing first last year, Tristin had a breakout season which culminated in all-ACC tournament honors. His arm apparently was not healed by minor surgery last spring, and he recently had Tommy John surgery and will redshirt for 2017. We can only hope and pray for his full recovery.
Now, for the good news. Returning sophomore pitcher Jonathan Hughes returns from his own surgery. Fans will recall Hughes’ very promising freshman season ended abruptly in the middle of a strong start in Tallahassee. Also, redshirt senior pitcher Jonathan King will hope to overcome his own arm problems from past seasons – he has been very effective throughout his career when healthy. Seniors Ben Parr and Zac Ryan are likely to be called on as closers, especially in the early games. Several returning sophomore and junior pitchers will compete for starting and relief opportunities and we won’t know until the season gets going who will step up.
Returning position players
Returning position players include preseason All-American OF/DH Kel Johnson, senior outfielders Keenan Innis, Ryan Peurifoy, and Coleman Poje, versatile sophomore Carter Hall (son of head coach Danny Hall), junior IF Wade Bailey, sophomore IF Brandt Stallings, junior IF Trevor Craport (preseason all American) and sophomore C Joey Bart. All of them should be strong contenders for starting jobs in the early going.
The Jackets’ recruiting class looks very promising and includes several immediate impact players. SS/SP Xzavion Curry from Atlanta’s Mays HS looks to be a potential two-way star. Buford HS twin brothers Austin and Nick Wilhite will try to earn time in the infield and outfield. No doubt several other new players will emerge as contributors during the season.
Getting the Season Underway!
The season gets going this weekend, February 17-19 with a three-game round robin against BYU, Marshall, and Western Michigan; then the team hits the road for a Tuesday game in Statesboro before returning home for a weekend series against regular visitor Youngstown State next weekend. By the end of February, we should have a good idea of how Georgia Tech’s season is looking.