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Ga. Tech coach Hall hoping to erase last year's NCAA regional disappointment

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall doesn't want to talk about how his team fared last year in the NCAA Tournament.

He just hopes his players will stay loose this weekend and avoid another disappointing first-round finish at Russ Chandler Stadium.

"Whoever wins this tournament is going to have some adversity during the tournament," Hall said Thursday. "And I think many times it's how you handle the bad things that happen to you that dictate how successful you're going to be."

The Yellow Jackets are hosting their eighth Atlanta regional since 2000, but playing at home did them no favors last season -- they lost to Southern Mississippi.

This year Georgia Tech (45-13) must move past Alabama (37-22), Elon (38-22) and Mercer (37-22) to advance to a super regional. Because the Yellow Jackets are seeded No. 8 in the NCAA's field of 64 teams, they likely would host one of 16 super regionals next weekend.

Hall, though, wants his players concentrating solely on beating Mercer in the 7 p.m. game today. And it's a contest that will feature three former Southwest Georgia star baseball players: Georgia Tech's Thomas Nichols (Lee County) and Mercer's Thomas Carroll and Evan Boyd (both from Deerfield).

Alabama and Elon will play at 3 p.m.

"Compete at a high level, and I don't want to say (stay) loose, but compete in a manner that they're free of fear, doubt, all the things that can creep in when something doesn't quite go your way," Hall said. "It's not going to be a breeze."

The Yellow Jackets never made it to the Atlantic Coast Conference title game last Sunday after losing 9-3 to Clemson the day before.

Right-hander Mark Pope (7-1, 4.26 ERA) will face Mercer's Brandon Love (8-3, 6.19 ERA) in the first game.

Hall still hasn't said when ace Deck McGuire will start next. The right-hander was held back in ACC tournament because Hall wanted to save him for a potential spot in the title game.

McGuire, who's projected as a high pick in the 2010 Major League Baseball draft with an 8-4 record and a 3.01 ERA, is well rested. He last pitched May 20, allowing five hits and two runs -- one earned -- with six strikeouts and six walks over six innings against Boston College.

"Any time you can get an extra day after 100 innings is kind of nice," McGuire said. "It doesn't bother me. I have no problem pitching on short rest, long rest. Threw to some hitters yesterday in practice to kind of stay sharp, so I'm really looking forward to it."

Keeping McGuire available and fresh might be one of Hall's best means of keeping his players loose.

The Jackets are aiming for their third spot in the College World Series since 2002. Tech has advanced to a super regional five times after hosting a regional, but not since '06.

Junior shortstop Derek Dietrich, who is expected to join McGuire and forgo his senior year of eligibility, says the Jackets have a healthy collective mindset.

"It's kind of surreal it could be the last time we step on the field, so that even adds a little more urgency," said Dietrich, who is hitting .360 with 16 home runs and 58 RBI. "But we're going to play calm and cool and collected, have fun as a team and see how far we can take this."

Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard is trying to help his team concentrate despite outfielder David Kindred's recent cancer diagnosis.

Kindred, though, traveled with the Crimson Tide to Atlanta and spoke to the entire team.

"It really put the team at ease," Gaspard said, "and I think the fact that he's with us on this trip is really helping all of us deal with it, including him."

Alabama won eight straight before losing the championship game 4-3 in 11 innings to LSU.

Right-hander Nathan Kilcrease (6-2, 2.47 ERA) will start for the Tide opposite left-hander Jimmy Reyes (10-3, 3.97) for Elon.