ACC Baseball Weekly Roundup – March 16, 2015

weeklyroundupRoad Worriers: This weekend was a testament to the parity of the ACC in baseball. The five teams in Baseball America’s top 25 rankings for the week were a combined 9-6 in conference play this weekend, despite all playing unranked teams. Two of those ranked teams suffered series losses on the road this weekend, No. 3 Virginia and No. 17 North Carolina.

Following a mid-week loss to Old Dominion, Virginia was swept on the road at rival Virginia Tech, including a walk-off loss in the opener. The Hokies and Cavaliers exchanged runs in the first inning, then went scoreless until Josh Sborz walked Brendon Hayden (the only batter he faced) with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to give the Hokies the win. Virginia spent the rest of the weekend without coach Brian O’Connor, who was suspended four games for making contact with an umpire during an eighth-inning argument.

Virginia led every game in the series, scoring in the first inning on Friday and Saturday and taking a 3-1 lead on a Daniel Pinero two-run home run in the finale. However, the Hokies proved to have the toughness to come back on each occasion and the pitching to contain the Cavaliers offense. A fourth inning bases loaded walk by Miguel Ceballos pushed Virginia Tech ahead 3-1 on Saturday, while second baseman Alex Perez’s two-run homer in the eighth inning was the decisive factor in Sunday’s contest for the Hokies.

Pittsburgh finally played its first home games of the season this week, hosting Niagara twice during the week before bringing in North Carolina. The Panthers won four of the five, sweeping Niagara before taking two games against the Tar Heels.

Pitt won Friday’s opener in a slugfest, thanks in part to home runs from Jordan Frabasilio and Frank Maldonado. Another strong outing from freshman J.B. Bukauskas (2.70 ERA on the season) carried the Tar Heels to a Saturday win, setting the stage for Sunday’s rubber match. UNC’s Landon Lassiter scored Brian Miller on a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning to force extras in that game. In the tenth, Pittsburgh pinch hitter Eric Hess singled home Ron Sherman for the walk-off win.

Blown Away: Bouncing back from two losses against Louisville, No. 19 Miami swept NC State in Coral Gables this weekend. The performance threw the Hurricanes into a three-way tie with Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech in the early Coastal Division standings.

The Friday opener was the only contest with a measure of drama, as both teams put on a pitchers’ duel despite reaching deep into their bullpens. In an interesting twist, it was a Hurricane named David Thompson that was NC State’s downfall, as the junior third baseman launched a solo home run in the tenth inning for a walk-off win.

From there, Miami’s pitching dominated the Wolfpack. NC State mustered two runs on eleven hits for the remainder of the weekend. In the Saturday finale, Andy Suarez pitched six shutout innings and struck out seven NC State batters in his return from an oblique injury suffered during a February 20 warmup.

This Week: Coastal Carolina, coming off a dominant 13-2 win over North Carolina to improve to 3-0 against the ACC, will host Clemson on Tuesday. The Tigers aim to rebound from losing two games at home to Notre Dame which will likely propel the Irish into national rankings.

Meanwhile, the first chapter of Florida State-Florida will also take place on Tuesday, when the rivals meet in Gainesville. While they won’t face each other over the course of one weekend like most traditional series, they will play each other three times this season in mid-week contests. The Gators will host the Seminoles on April 14, and there will be a neutral-site game in Jacksonville, Florida on March 31. Florida is 18-3 and has been considered a top-25 team throughout the season. The Gators won two games against Miami on the second weekend of the season, and opened SEC play last weekend with two wins against Tennessee.

In ACC play, Louisville will begin a string of demanding conference tests by traveling to South Bend to face Notre Dame. The Cardinals didn’t have a testing non-conference slate, but won two games against Miami to open ACC play before sweeping Boston College this weekend. The Cardinals will need a strong showing, with a home series against Georgia Tech and a trip to Charlottesville on the horizon. Meanwhile, the Irish hope to build on their strong showing at Clemson.

Speaking of Clemson, the 9-9 Tigers will travel to Blacksburg to face the Hokies squad coming off a sweep of Virginia. With the level of play in the ACC, this is the kind of series that the selection committee will look at very closely on Memorial Day weekend when determining the NCAA Tournament field. Both teams now have strong series wins on their resume (two of three against South Carolina for Clemson, the Cavalier sweep for Virginia Tech), but both also have some discouraging losses.

The Tigers have losses to Winthrop and Michigan State, and NC State’s struggles both before and after beating Clemson twice aren’t helping. Virginia Tech is riding high from last weekend, but preceded the series with two losses to Wake Forest. The Hokies also suffered losses to Mercer and Toledo. For both teams, the rest of the season will be about beating the teams you should during the week, and proving you stack up against the fellow fringe teams in conference play. That starts this weekend.

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