The ACC baseball tournament wasted little time in having its first upset, as eighth-seeded Georgia Tech toppled top-seeded Florida State 5-4 in the first game of the tournament Wednesday.
With that in mind, let's take a look at a couple possible upsets that could occur between now and Sunday, when the champion will be crowned as the top club from Pool A and from Pool B face off at noon.
Game 7: No. 4 Virginia vs. No. 8 Georgia Tech
Coming off its upset of the top-seeded Seminoles, the Yellow Jackets will be looking to parlay that success into upending another superior-rated foe.
Senior Jake Davies launched two long balls against Florida State, continuing his full-season onslaught that saw him hit 11 homers and bat .329/.402/.529 overall. This is a good hitting ball club, as Davies and Daniel Palka combined for 23 dingers while the team hit .292/.371/.427 overall.
Buck Farmer is a capable starter (3.43 ERA, 110 K/34 BB in 99.2 IP), but after him the rotation is largely a patchwork one (4.40 team ERA), with Cole Pitts capable of throwing a gem every now and then. Farmer faced the Seminoles, so it seems likely that Pitts will get the Cavaliers, though Farmer only tossed six innings and Tech is off on Thursday. The season series between these two was actually quite close, as Virginia took two of three but only by a combined two runs.
The Cavaliers offense is spearheaded by Stephen Bruno and Derek Fisher, who combined for 13 home runs, 24 HBP and had 47 RBI apiece. This Virginia offense is based much more on the free pass—the team carries a .401 team OBP with only 25 homers—but is one that can score runs in bunches (7.1 R/G) and has an excellent pitching staff (3.31 team ERA/6.33 opponent's ERA).
The Cavs have three very good starters to lean on, fronted by Branden Kline (3.89 ERA, 84 K/37 BB in 81.0 IP). If Tech can be stingy on the free pass, I don't think there's any reason they can't steal one for the Cavaliers here.
Game 8: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 5 Clemson
The Seminoles may well come into this tilt against the Tigers reeling from a somewhat embarrassing loss at the hands of Tech, in which case the Tigers could have ample opportunity to pounce.
The Clemson offense begins and ends with Richie Shaffer, who hit .344/.470/.590 with 10 dongs for a team that only combined to hit .273/.362/.389 as a whole.
The pitching staff is where the Tigers were more competent overall this season (3.89 team ERA), with a rotation of three reliable starters and four solid bullpen arms to boot. I don't feel ultra comfortable picking this upset—who ever does, really?—but I think Shaffer could drive in a few runs, and if Clemson's pen gets a lead late, look for them to shut the door hard.
James Ramsey was the hitting star for the Seminoles this year, hitting .387 with 28 extra-base hits and 52 walks against only 35 strikeouts. Basically, he accounted for over one-third of the team's home runs, 27.1 percent of the team's runs (R+RBI-HR) and stole nine bases to boot. If Clemson can keep him in check, this upset can become a real thing.
The 'Noles, however, have four very good starting pitchers, and some kind of a reliever in Robert Benincasa, who in 32 innings pitched this year had 45 Ks and only five walks, to go with a sterling 0.56 ERA. That's downright nasty.
Game 10: No. 5 Clemson vs. No. 8 Georgia Tech
What kind of matchup would this be if both teams won their upset games? In all honesty, to get to this game with both teams playing for their championship lives would be incredible. Neither team is remarkably deep in the pitching staff, so it could come down to a battle of third or fourth starters in what may amount to a 12-10 fireworks show.
Nevertheless, this one should be fun with both teams playing good baseball.
Which Upset is Most Likely?
The complete schedule for the ACC Baseball Tournament can be found here.