Coach Hall "High Expectations" for Team

Coach Danny Hall enters his seventeenth season as the coach of the Georgia Tech baseball team. Coach Hall talks about the expectations for the veteran team, the need for improvement in the infield, and how he'll use the pitching staff this season.

How would you compare this year's team to the ones that you've had over the past four or five years?

"I would say there's a lot of potential and I would say that there's high expectations. I think we have a good club in place and with that come expectations. I don't think that's any different than any year I've coached. You want your team to do the best it could possibly do and I think this team on paper has a chance to be a very good one. We have a lot of guys back and we have a lot of pitchers back. Any time you have a lot of pitchers back that gives you a lot of encouragement."

You lost two recruits to the draft. Do any of the freshmen have a chance to make an impact?

"I'd say that we'd expect those guys to make an impact. We expect the four pitchers to push the guys that we have here for either a midweek starter spot or a setup role or something in our bullpen. I want Brandon Thomas to push some of those guys in the outfield a little bit as well. I expect all those guys to make an impact somehow, some way on our team."

Does the possibility of a recruit getting drafted effect who you recruit?

"Definitely, we got caught short on Tucker Barnhart. We knew pretty early on in the summer that he was going to sign so we were on the hunt for some catchers. The tricky thing is that catchers are hard to find to begin with. You add that with basically no scholarship money to maybe get somebody to come to Georgia Tech. It's hard in the economy to get someone to come and pay their way. The second part of that is they have to be able to get into Georgia Tech with a 1250 SAT. Those guys are hard to find that are good enough to play. We felt we were in pretty good shape with Tucker Barnhart and it didn't work out that way. That's the one area this fall that we have to try and develop somebody else as a backup catcher to Cole (Leonida). We've had Thomas Nichols do some of that and we've had Matt Skole doing some. Hopefully one of those will emerge as a good backup and the other will be our third catcher."

One of the nice things about this team is that you have your whole infield back?

"That's one area that we have to improve on. I think if you look back at Southern Mississippi, we made some defensive mistakes and compounded that by making some pitching mistakes that cost us dearly in those two games against them. We have to improve our defense. Derek Dietrich needs to improve. Matt Skole needs to improve. We played musical chairs at second base all year. I'd like somebody to try and win that job this fall. I think Tony is one of the better defensive players at first that we've had. Jake Davies is pushing him over there. I think we still have some good healthy competition in the infield. Dietrich and Skole need to improve the left side of our infield."

You can use Thomas Nichols in the infield, outfield, and on the mound. Will he be in the mix at second base?

"Yes, and I wouldn't rule out Patrick Long and we're going to use Jacob Esch in the infield a lot more this year. He had a real good summer in the Northwoods League so Jake is going to get some time at all three of the infield positions. We want to create depth and give Jake an opportunity. Right now it might be Connor Winn, Jason Garafalo, and I might try Jacob Esch over there a little bit."

Beside Kevin Jacob and Esch, is there anyone else that caught your eye this summer?

"I keep hearing from everybody that Derek played really well and that he played much better than his average dictated. I know he played every game up there this summer so I've heard real good things about him. (Brandon) Cumpton came home with a sore shoulder but is fine. The few starts he had everyone was raving about that. Jake Davies is a guy that everyone thought played well and I heard the same thing in the Cape about Cole Leonida. They felt he would have been on the all-star team if hadn't broken a bone in his hands. I think all our guys got some reps and got some work in and got some experience and that is going to help us."

Kevin Jacob looks to be the closer based on his summer performance?

"There's no question about it and it's the first time in a long long time that we have had somebody that is pretty established in that role. I know he dominated the Alaska League. I felt late in the year last season he was kind of a dominant closer. I excited about having someone thee and that's where I want him to do and I'm counting on him to do it."

A pitcher like Andrew Robinson can do a lot of different things. What are you looking for from him?

"We've talked about starting him. I wouldn't say that's etched in stone. He's a very valuable set up guy in our bullpen. You hit it on the head. He can do a lot of things. I think his start in the NCAA regional was a good one. I thought he had a good start down at Georgia Southern early in the year. We're just going to throw him normal this fall and hopefully by January we'll know what role he's going to play."

Would Mark Pope be another pitcher similar to that?

"My thoughts right now are that Mark is either going to be a Sunday starter or a midweek starter. I just think that's where he's best suited. I thought we saw a little bit of that late in the year when we started to extend his innings he pitched real well. He had some starts in the Cape. He also pitched in relief in the Cape. I think I'm going to gear and get him ready to be a Sunday guy or a Saturday guy. You hope he at least pushes Cumpton and at the worst either a Tuesday or Wednesday starter."

You have Jeff Rowland coming back in centerfield. I guess left and right are open with Chase Burnette and Jay Dantzler getting the first look?

"Definitely, Chase Burnette came on for us as a hitter last year. He needs to really establish himself defensively this fall. I think Jay Dantzler is one of our better outfielders. It's probably the first time that he's had a clear path to play a lot. I expect a big year out of him. Brandon Thomas is going to push some guys. I wouldn't rule out Nichols or Pat Long or Evan Martin or some of those guys out there sometime as we try to get some more left or right hand hitters in the lineup."

Jake Davies can also pitch besides playing first and could he DH this season?

"I expect Jake to push for DH and I think his role on this team will be very similar to last year as a lefty relief guy for us. He can get some big outs particularly against lefthanders."


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