Sept. 16, 2011
ATLANTA – The 2012 Georgia Tech baseball team will open its fall camp with full-squad practices beginning Monday, Sept. 19, and leading up to the White and Gold World Series at the end of October.
The Yellow Jackets return 23 letterwinners and nine starters (7 position players, two pitchers) from a 2011 squad that finished 42-21 overall and reached the finals of the NCAA Atlanta Regional.
“We are really excited to start fall practice,” head coach Danny Hall said. “We have a lot of things we need to accomplish. We’ve been doing individual workouts for two weeks now, and I feel like between [strength and conditioning coach] Steve Tamborra and the individual workouts that our guys are in good shape.
“There are definitely a lot of things we need to get better at individually and as a team, and that’s what we use fall for, to make adjustments that we think we need to make to make our team better.”
After losing just four starters (all underclassmen) from last season to professional contracts, the Jackets return a very experienced squad from a 2011 team that had the largest freshman class in the nation at 17 players. Five of the 17 started on a regular basis, while nine made at least one start.
“By having a bunch of guys back, they know what we expect of them,” Hall said. “They know how hard we need to work to get to where we need to be, starting up again in January. It’s exciting that we can look out there and not see 17 freshmen, that’s for sure, because there was a lot of teaching last fall.”
Tech returns its entire starting outfield from a year ago in juniors Brandon Thomas and Sam Dove and sophomore Kyle Wren, who was named to the All-ACC first team and multiple Freshman All-America squads last season.
Tech also return its top power hitter in sophomore Daniel Palka. Palka led the team in home runs (12) and slugging percentage (.556) last season, playing mostly as the designated hitter. The Lyman, S.C. native, who could also pitch some this year, will play in the outfield and at first base in addition to serving as a DH.
On the mound, the Jackets lost two of their three weekend starters to the professional ranks, but return junior Buck Farmer (RHP), who earned All-ACC second team honors last year as the Sunday starter.
Sophomore right-hander Matthew Grimes also returns after serving as the midweek starter last season, while sophomore Dusty Isaacs (RHP), who was named the top prospect from the 2011 Great Lakes Summer League, could push for the final weekend spot. Junior Clay Dalton (RHP) and sophomores DeAndre Smelter (RHP), Devin Stanton (LHP) and Jonathan Roberts (RHP) are also back after serving in relief roles in 2011. The team will also have its closer back as right-hander Luke Bard enters his junior season with 10 career saves.
“We lost the entire left side of our infield so we have to figure out who is going to play shortstop and third base. We lost our top two pitchers in Jed Bradley, a first-rounder, and Mark Pope, an all-American, so there are definitely a lot of innings that need to be accounted for.
“We will see how our freshmen stack up against our older guys, and see how our older guys come back from the summer, so it will be fun to get back out there working with them and gearing towards another season here starting in 2012.”
Tech will return its starting catcher for the first time since the 2009 season. Sophomore Zane Evans, who last season became the first freshman to serve as the everyday starter since Jason Varitek in 1991, returns behind the plate after earning Freshman All-America honors a year ago.
“Zane Evans was a warrior for our team last year to catch as many games as we asked (him to), and for a freshman to step in there and do, in my mind, a great job. We do have him some help this year as Mitch Earnest is back and two freshmen join the team in A.J. Murray and Connor Lynch.
“Zane welcomes the relief, and certainly we do too. We are excited to finally have some depth at that position.”
The Jackets welcome seven newcomers to the squad for the 2012 season, three of whom were drafted out of high school.
Starting Monday, Tech will begin practice each day at approximately 3:15 p.m., while taking Saturday and Sundays off.
The annual White & Gold World Series begins Monday, Oct. 24, and continues through Thursday, Oct. 27 with full games at Russ Chandler Stadium.