The 2013 ACC Baseball Tournament should include no shortage of drama. A difference of just four games separated the top five teams in the conference play. The parity should make for one of the most thrilling conference tournaments in the nation.
North Carolina enters as the top overall seed and will lead Pool A. Atlantic Division winner Florida State is the top team in Pool B. Defending champion Georgia Tech, which won the event as the No. 8 seed last year, is the No. 7 seed in 2013.
The tournament will consist of two groups of four teams that will complete three games of round-robin play. The winners of each pool will play in the championship game on Sunday. The low number of games leaves the door open for surprising runs like Georgia Tech's last year.
Let's take a look at all the key information for the tournament followed by a full schedule, preview and prediction for which team will take home the title.
Where: Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C.
When: Wednesday, May 22 – Sunday, May 26
Watch: Regional Sports Networks (RSN) and ESPN2 (Title Game)
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
|No. 1 North Carolina|
|No. 4 North Carolina State|
|No. 5 Clemson|
|No. 8 Miami|
|No. 2 Florida State|
|No. 3 Virginia|
|No. 6 Virginia Tech|
|No. 7 Georgia Tech|
Schedule (All Times Eastern)
|1||Georgia Tech||Florida State||May 22||11 a.m.||RSN|
|2||Virginia Tech||Virginia||May 22||3 p.m.||RSN|
|3||Clemson||NC State||May 22||7 p.m.||RSN|
|4||Virginia||Georgia Tech||May 23||11 a.m.||RSN|
|5||Miami||North Carolina||May 23||3 p.m.||RSN|
|6||Florida State||Virginia Tech||May 23||7 p.m.||RSN|
|7||NC State||Miami||May 24||11 a.m.||RSN|
|8||Georgia Tech||Virginia Tech||May 24||3 p.m.||RSN|
|9||North Carolina||Clemson||May 24||7 p.m.||RSN|
|10||Virginia||Florida State||May 25||11 a.m.||RSN|
|11||Miami||Clemson||May 25||3 p.m.||RSN|
|12||NC State||North Carolina||May 25||7 p.m.||RSN|
|Title||Pool A Winner||Pool B Winner||May 26||1 p.m.||ESPN2|
Schedule information courtesy TheACC.com.
North Carolina is undoubtedly the most balanced team in the tournament. The Tar Heels ranked first in the ACC in ERA, second in team batting average and third in home runs during the regular season.
The Heels' offensive attack is led by Colin Moran, who hit 13 home runs and racked up 83 RBI in 56 games. The bats are supported by a strong pitch staff. The dynamic starting duo of Hobbs Johnson and Kent Emanuel can match up with anybody in the conference.
Georgia Tech is capable of making another run despite a second straight lackluster regular season. The Yellow Jackets led the conference with 54 home runs. They hope to power their way to another title on the backs of Daniel Palka and Zane Evans, who combined for 31 homers.
Another team with the tools to make some noise in Durham is Virginia. The Cavaliers led the conference in batting average with a terrific .317 mark as a team and also ranked fourth in ERA. Mike Papi is the star to watch after hitting .408 to lead the ACC.
Rounding out the group of top contenders is Florida State. Starters Scott Sitz and Luke Weaver should ensure the Seminoles have enough pitching to make a title run. Getting timely hits from a mid-pack offense, whether it be DJ Stewart, Marcus Davis or an unsung hero, will be the key.
While those four teams have the best chance to win the ACC championship, Georgia Tech showed last season that it all comes down to momentum. The short event gives all eight teams a reasonable chance to emerge with the coveted title.
North Carolina has too many weapons to pick against. On offense, the Tar Heels can win by playing small ball, getting on base and using their speed, or simply out-slugging their opponents. And they have a terrific pitching staff to back it up.
The X-factor will be Trent Thornton. The pitcher has filled several different roles throughout the season and handled them all extremely well. He's 9-1 with a 1.43 ERA. His ability to lock down opposing offenses coming out of the pen will help North Carolina capture the ACC crown.
Champion: North Carolina