The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets navigated their way through a deep 2014 ACC baseball tournament field and capped off their run to the championship with a 9-4 victory over Maryland on Sunday.
This marks the second title for Georgia Tech in three seasons, and it comes as the No. 9 seed in the bracket. Now the Yellow Jackets find themselves suddenly with an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. Coach Danny Hall was impressed with how his club emerged superior in a conference tourney that showcased the ACC's depth, per RamblinWreck.com:
I tip my cap (to my team) for awesome run of coming in as a nine-seed, having to go into a play-in game, and that game could have gone either way, but we fought our way in to beat Wake. Then we went on a great run. Duke beat us, but I think that can happen any place, any time in this league. The 10 teams that made it here are 10 great teams. Getting into the championship round is the hardest thing. Once you get there, if you play well you've got a chance to win and they played their hearts out the whole week from pitching, to playing defense, to getting timely hits. We sit here today as the ACC Champions. So very proud of them.
For that dream run through the ACC to materialize, Georgia Tech needed several players to step up, and it resulted in a select threesome being named to the all-tournament team.
Second baseman Mott Hyde, outfielder Daniel Spingola and ACC tournament MVP pitcher Dusty Isaacs comprised the trio of stars who boosted Georgia Tech to prominence after earning its way into pool play, via theACC.com. Below is a closer look at the standout performers, how they fared and what to expect from them as the Yellow Jackets move forward into unexpected yet welcome territory.
Mott Hyde, 2B
In addition to being a marvelous fielder and helping out the Yellow Jackets defense throughout the tournament, perhaps the most pivotal contribution Hyde made was in the win over Clemson.
The Tigers were a hot and confident team and were favored to knock off Georgia Tech, but Hyde's clutch, two-run homer in the top of the ninth gave the underdogs breathing room after clinging to a 1-0 lead before then:
Timely hitting can offset any disadvantage in overall talent. Hyde managed to come through, proving his worth as a longtime starter and cornerstone of the Yellow Jackets program. It was only his fourth dinger of the season, but it characterized how Hyde and his teammates could rise to the occasion in the big moment.
Numerous double plays were sparked by Hyde's brilliance in the field, and little can stunt momentum for the opposing lineup better than turning two.
The degree of difficulty on some of those plays was considerable. That makes the fact that the Yellow Jackets had zero errors over the course of five games more impressive. It's that type of attention to detail and fundamentals that can help a team jell at the perfect time and hold up under pressure. Hyde is a solid senior leader who got a deserved bid to the elite ACC tournament team.
Daniel Spingola, CF
How will Georgia Tech fare for the rest of the season?
Just to get into Pool A, it was the latter offensive skill Spingola possesses that drove Georgia Techs' victory, as he socked a two-run triple in the second inning of the opener against Wake Forest (h/t Associated Press, via CharlotteObserver.com). The Yellow Jackets scored all five of their runs in that frame of a 5-3 win, setting the tone for the rest of the tournament and providing the team with the initial belief that they could get it done.
Filling in as the leadoff hitter ahead of Hyde meant that Spingola had to lock in and excel in the batter's box. Other than the 6-0 loss to Duke that could have dashed Georgia Tech's hopes at the title, Spingola did a spectacular job of setting up the heart of the Yellow Jackets' order for success.
Taking hits is never a fun ordeal, but on Sunday, Spingola was struck by a pitch and trotted to first, which set up the opportunity for him to score from there on Matt Gonzalez's RBI double:
That situation could have seen Spingola be retired and the Yellow Jackets pressed into a bottom of the ninth scenario in which the Terrapins could have truly changed the game with one swing of the bat. It wasn't to be, though, in part because of Singola's willingness to take one for the team.
Dusty Isaacs, P
More often fit for the closer's role, evident by his two saves in the ACC tournament, Isaacs got the start in the victory over Clemson. He dealt five shutout innings before being spelled by southpaw foil Sam Clay the rest of the way.
Matt Winkeljohn of RamblinWreck.com analyzed how the senior hurler's attitude was contagious in a most positive way for Georgia Tech:
A challenging winter/spring season of Tech athletics was lifted in monstrous fashion because so many Jackets have Isaacs', "put me in, coach," mentality that Tech surpassed reasonable expectation - again - almost as if nobody should have predicted otherwise. [...] Although the near-Cincinnati native wouldn't really admit it, he lobbied to play. That mentality has a lot to do with the Jackets surpassing themselves.
William Qualkinbush of TheClemsonInsider.com praised Isaacs' gutsy performance, catering to the persona the pitcher seemed to project with his desire to compete, grind and win:
Tough way to lose for Clemson. Much credit to Georgia Tech. Isaacs gutted it up and pitched like a senior should. Props to Clate Schmidt too— William Qualkinbush (@QualkTalk) May 23, 2014
Isaacs was not in action at all for Sunday's title game versus Maryland, but his mark had already been made through his prior appearances on the bump. He tossed 8.1 scoreless innings and recorded the win against the Tigers.
As for how the Yellow Jackets fare from here, they have plenty of upperclassmen to learn from with regard to leadership by example. The selection process will likely determine their ultimate fate, but emerging as champions from an undeniably deep conference tournament has to help their cause a lot.
Presuming Hyde and Spingola keep flashing leather the way they have and holding their own atop the order while Isaacs shuts the opposition down late in games, Georgia Tech has capable contributors to make a respectable NCAA tournament run. That may sound hyperbolic, but predicting the team to win the ACC title seemed preposterous not even a week ago.
Note: Statistics are courtesy of theACC.com, unless otherwise indicated.