For the Tech baseball program, 2020 was a highly anticipated year. The team was coming off a stellar 2019 campaign marked by veteran leadership, ultimately leading to six players departing for the major leagues. The excitement generated by the team’s success was boosted when the Jackets enjoyed a new wave of freshman talent. Unfortunately, the newcomers were given a very limited time to display their talents as the COVID-19 pandemic brought all spring sports to an abrupt halt. However, despite the shortened season, three freshmen were given the honor of being named to the Freshman All-America team: Luke Compton (1B), Stephen Reid (OF/DH), and Dalton Smith (LHP) earned the nod as three of the nation’s top first-year performers. The trio has the distinction of being the most Jacket freshmen named to the team in one season since 1992, when Nomar Garciaparra, Brad Rigby, Michael Smith and Jay Payton were all selected.
Compton stepped into the role of starting first baseman following the departure of Tristin English, who was selected in the third round of the MLB draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Compton started all 16 games the Jackets played and spent most of his time batting cleanup. The switch-hitter finished second on the team in batting average, hitting an impressive .321 with 18 hits, four doubles, a triple, three home runs, and 12 RBIs. He also showed great patience at the plate, earning the squad’s third-most walks for an on-base percentage of .420.
Reid started the season looking for playing time in a crowded Jacket outfield and got most of his playing time initially as the designated hitter against left-handed pitchers. However, his massive power soon won the favor of Coach Danny Hall, and the slugger quickly earned the full-time DH role, leading the team with five homers and a .636 slugging percentage in just 44 at-bats.
Smith had to quickly learn how to thrive under pressure during his freshman campaign. As a left-handed reliever, he was quickly asked to fill a vital role in the team’s bullpen and saw his fair share of tight contests throughout the season, including narrow victories on the road at Georgia Southern and over ACC nemesis Virginia Tech. The southpaw finished with an undefeated 3-0 record and posted a miniscule 1.46 ERA in 12.1 innings of work.
These players’ performances made it all the more unfortunate that the 2020 season was cut short, but also generated even more excitement for the promise that these young players have for the years to come. Although for some the honor may come with somewhat of an asterisk due to the shortened season, Tech fans know the promise that this team showed while they were on the field, and eagerly anticipate the team’s return in 2021.