ACC Baseball Championship Preview


After a long season, it is time for the ACC Baseball Championship. After spending the last four years alternating with Greensboro’s NewBridge Bank Park as host of the event, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park  will host each of the next four ACC Tournaments, starting Tuesday with two play-in games. The winners of the play-in games will advance to group play, where the top six ACC teams have already been seeded and await their foes. There are two four-team groups, and each team will face its three opponents between Wednesday and Saturday (allowing for one off day for each team over the course of the week). The winner of each group will play Sunday at 1:00 PM in the ACC Championship Game.

Play-In Round

#7 Virginia vs. #10 Georgia Tech – Virginia was the preseason favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference, but struggled for most of the season. For most of the season, the Cavaliers found themselves outside the top ten, in danger of missing this week’s ACC Tournament. Winning five of their last six conference games (including a sweep of North Carolina in Chapel Hill to close the season) bolted them to seventh. That very well may have saved their chances of making the NCAA Tournament, but they’ll want a strong showing today to secure that. Georgia Tech defeated Virginia twice in their series in Atlanta in April, but comes to Durham on a four-game losing streak after being swept by Miami.  The Miami sweep wasn’t a huge shot to Georgia Tech’s RPI, but suffering a 22-1 loss on Friday and a 17-4 loss on Saturday was an embarrassing way to conclude the regular season.

#8 North Carolina vs. #9 Virginia Tech – Two years ago, these teams met in a thrilling ACC Baseball Championship final. Now, they meet just to advance to the group phase of the event. The Tar Heels benefited from outcomes in other games to get into this week’s tournament, as they were swept by Notre Dame and Virginia to close the season. Coach Mike Fox said after UNC’s season finale that he considers their game with Virginia Tech “do or die” for the Tar Heels’ NCAA aspirations after finishing 13-16 in ACC play. For Virginia Tech, their spot in the ACC Tournament wasn’t secure until they defeated Pittsburgh on the last day of the regular season to prevent a sweep at the hands of the Panthers. The Hokies have been streaky. Before the Pitt series, Virginia Tech had won seven consecutive games. Before that streak, they had lost nine of eleven. The Hokies and Heels split two games in Blacksburg before the third was rained out, so this will serve as a rubber match for the sides.

Pool Breakdowns

Pool A: #1 Louisville, #4 Florida State, #5 Clemson, North Carolina/Virginia Tech winner – Louisville is far and away the class of the conference and will be the odds-on favorite to advance from this pool. The Cardinals boast ACC Coach of the Year Dan McDonnell and ACC Freshman of the Year Brandon McKay. McKay has an impressive .318 batting average, as well as the conference’s highest strikeout total (100) and second-best earned run average on the mound (1.64). Clemson will be an interesting team to watch in this pool. They had played well enough in conference play to avoid much drama about making this week’s event, but a shoddy RPI still left their NCAA Tournament shot in the dark. The Tigers boosted their resume by sweeping Florida State to end the regular season, the same team they will face Wednesday to open group play. A couple of wins this week – especially if one of them comes against the Seminoles – could seal the deal for the Tigers. As for the Seminoles, they are hoping that sweep didn’t irreparably harm their chances of home field during the NCAA Tournament. The top sixteen teams in the nation host Regionals next weekend, but the top eight teams are given seeding preference for hosting Super Regionals should they advance.

Pool A Schedule

Tuesday 5/19, 3:00 PM – Game 2, North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech
Wednesday 5/20, 11:00 AM – Game 3, Florida State vs. Clemson
Wednesday 5/20, 7:00 PM – Game 5, Louisville vs. TBA
Thursday 5/21, 3:00 PM – Game 7, Clemson vs. Louisville
Thursday 5/21, 7:00 PM – Game 8, TBA vs. Florida State
Friday 5/22, 3:00 PM – Game 10, TBA vs. Clemson
Saturday 5/23. 11:00 AM – Game 12, Florida State vs. Louisville

Pool B: #2 Miami, #3 Notre Dame, #6 NC State, Virginia/Georgia Tech winner – Miami enters Durham riding a Coastal Division title and a 12-game winning streak after the aforementioned decimation of Georgia Tech to close the regular season. NC State had won nine in a row before running into Louisville to end their season, and the Wolfpack were still good enough to win one game in that series. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has won five of its last six. Notre Dame and NC State are 35th and 40th in WarrenNolan.com’s RPI metric, which makes this week pivotal for both teams. However, three (and perhaps all four, if Virginia wins Tuesday) teams in the pool are playing their best baseball to end the season. This group may not have the traditional “sexy” names, with Jack Leggett and Mike Martin coaching in Pool A, but it should prove to be the more intriguing and exciting pod to watch this week in Durham.

Pool B Schedule

Tuesday 5/19, 11:00 AM – Game 1, Virginia vs. Georgia Tech
Wednesday 5/20. 3:00 PM – Game 4, Miami vs. TBA
Thursday 5/21, 11:00 AM – Game 6, Notre Dame vs. NC State
Friday 5/22, 11:00 AM – Game 9, TBA vs. Notre Dame
Friday 5/22, 7:00 PM – Game 11, NC State vs. Miami
Saturday 5/23, 3:00 PM – Game 13, Miami vs. Notre Dame
Saturday 5/23, 7:00 PM – Game 14, TBA vs. NC State

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