Let’s take a look at Georgia Tech baseball’s all-time starting nine in this edition of the NCAA.com series of the best possible starting lineups for some of college baseball’s most successful programs.
Here is how we picked the team: We dug deep in the record books, only considering the players’ college careers. Their achievements in professional baseball did not come into play. There was also consideration given to their positional fits and how well they fit into a batting order we made based on historical stats that could provide a combination of high batting averages, speed, and power.
Despite not having any national championships, the Yellow Jackets have many notable players. Some, such as Tom Angley and Doug Wycoff, set some of the all-time marks back in the 1920s that still stand today. This is a program rich in star players with plenty to choose from.
Ty Griffin, second base (1986-88)
Remember, we are focusing on making a lineup based on historical stats here, so we chose Griffin to lead things off based on three big career numbers. His 127 total stolen bases are most in program history, and a leadoff man that can turn a single into a double is a valuable asset. His 220 runs are tied for sixth all-time, and he finished his career with a .332 batting average. Griffin’s final season was a good one, as he ended his Georgia Tech career as an All-American and a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award.
Nomar Garciaparra, shortstop (1992-94)
This wasn’t an easy pick. The legendary Bobby Reeves who played on those 1920 sharp-hitting teams still finds his name amongst Georgia Tech top 10s. Derek Dietrich had as sound a career as any Yellow Jacket infielder to lace them up, exploding onto the scene with a 2008 campaign that earned him national freshman of the year honors, and finishing with a .331 average with 41 home runs and 181 RBI.
The best shortstop to play in Omaha?
Georgia Tech’s Nomar Garciaparra!
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 5, 2015
That said, Garciaparra’s ridiculous 1994 season gives him the edge. Garciaparra batted .427 with 26 doubles, 11 triples, 16 home runs, 73 RBI, and 33 stolen bases. That is a fantasy baseball season for the ages and fits perfectly in this fantasy lineup.
Mark Teixeira, third base (1999-2001)
Andy Bruce certainly deserves a mention here, but Teixeira’s bat gets him the start. Tex finished his amateur career in Atlanta on a sour note, suffering a broken ankle in his junior campaign in 2001. That didn’t diminish his value come draft day, as he captured the nation’s attention first with a national and ACC rookie of the year season in 1999 and following that with a monster 2000 campaign that ended with the Dick Howser Award and ACC player of the year honors. Teixeira’s career line —.400, 36 home runs, 165 RBI, and 178 runs scored — was really good. Could you imagine if he played more than 16 games in his final year?
Jason Varitek, catcher (1991-94)
Easy pick. No one has more base hits (351), doubles (82), home runs (57), RBI (251), runs scored (261), or total bases (610) in Georgia Tech history. Keep going? His 1994 season is the most highly-decorated in Yellow Jackets lore. He hit .426 that season, his third season in a row hitting above .400, with 23 doubles and 17 home runs, earning him both the Golden Spikes and Dick Howser Award. He has an ACC Player of the Year award under his belt as well as three-straight consensus All-American campaigns. Georgia Tech has some fine catchers, like Matt Wieters and Zane Evans, but they all pale in comparison to what Varitek accomplished during his time with the Yellow Jackets.
Tonight Jason Varitek receives the distinguished NCAA Silver Anniversary award!
— Georgia Tech Baseball (@GTBaseball) January 23, 2019
Jay Payton, outfield (1992-94)
There are many good choices from those that roamed the outfield for the Rambling Wreck, but Payton’s 1994 season deserves a starting place in the lineup. He began his career swiping bases, before becoming a run-producing power bat in his final season. Payton had 35 career stolen bases entering his junior campaign, but only swiped eight in 1994. Of course, he also hit .434 with 20 home runs, 27 doubles, 102 RBI, and 78 runs scored. That lack of stolen bases was forgiven.
Tony Plagman, first base (2007-10)
This was a tough category. Jake Davies was a possibility, with his versatility on the mound, but Plagman’s power numbers can’t be ignored. He finished his career sixth all-time in career RBI (219), third in home runs (55), eighth in doubles (56) and second in total bases (513). He also was more than a power bat in his final two seasons, hitting .354 and .360 respectively.
Mark Fischer, outfield (1995-97)
Fisher had a decorated career in Atlanta culminating in a Georgia Tech Hall of Fame induction in 2009. He was steady throughout his career in making contact and really found his power swing in his sophomore campaign before erupting for 24 home runs and 98 RBI in a First-Team All-American 1997 campaign.
J.J. Thomas, outfield (1995-97)
There were a couple of options here. Wycoff is certainly a candidate with the second-best batting average and third-best slugging percentage in Georgia Tech history. Darren Bragg certainly earned himself recognition, finding himself amongst the all-time leaders in runs and RBI. Guys like Mike Fowler and Charlie Blackmon put up big numbers but didn’t play quite long enough to compare to some others. We’re going with Thomas and his pure slugging ability.
Thomas had back-to-back 20-home run seasons in 1996 and 1997 while hitting over .300. His name can still be found all over the record book, amongst the all-time leaders in runs scored, RBI, and total bases. There’s a good case for many in the final outfield spot, but the Yellow Jackets second all-time home run hitter gets the nod.
Brad Rigby, pitcher (1992-94)
Picking a closer for Georgia Tech is easy. That honor goes to Jim Poole, the career leader in saves and strikeouts per nine for the Yellow Jackets. Picking the Friday night starter? Not so much.
It was hard to overlook Kevin Brown. He was an All-American in 1986 and after a rough freshman campaign, he strung together two great seasons and would be the Saturday night pitcher in this all-time rotation. You could easily make a case for the programs all-time win leader Doug Creek who won 10 or more games three years in a row en route to 41 career wins and is the program’s all-time strikeout king. Mike Schisler went undefeated in 1971 and 1973 while posting minuscule ERAs, his 1.97 career ERA still tops in program history. Mike Hostetler had an All-American campaign in 1990 and is yet another Tech Hall of Famer. Even someone as recent as Buck Farmer who racked up 33 wins and was a semifinalist for the national pitcher of the year in 2013 deserves a chance at this fictional weekend rotation.
But we’re heading into the weekend with Rigby. Why Rigby? Rigby went 27-5 with 316 strikeouts in his 1993 and 1994 All-American campaigns. He tossed a complete game, 10-strikeout, shutout of Cal State Fullerton his first career start in the College World Series. His 35 wins are second-most in program history and he was the ace of arguably the greatest team in Georgia Tech lore. We’re confident opening any series with Rigby on the bump.
Danny Hall, head coach
— Georgia Tech Baseball (@GTBaseball) January 24, 2019
This is a two-horse race. Jim Morris certainly built this program into a powerhouse, averaging 45 wins over a ten-year span and compiling a .674 winning percentage. But Danny Hall stepped in in 1994 and finally got the Yellow Jackets to Omaha. Hall has more wins than any other Yellow Jacket skipper and has led Georgia Tech to the tournament 20 times, including all three of its trips to the College World Series.