Baseball Tourney Back on Tobacco Road
Having spent the last couple of years in the Sunshine State, the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament returns to a familiar site, as the league's top eight teams invade Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP), beginning today and running through Sunday.
The tournament called the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville home since 2006, and this year's tournament was originally slated for historic Fenway Park in Boston.
But seeing as how the Red Sox are playing host to the Toronto Blue Jays through Thursday and have a weekend series with the New York Mets, the ACC was without a weekend home until the Bulls stepped up to provide a venue.
The proximity also couldn't have been better for the ACC, who would have no doubt played in front a lot of empty seats in the 36,000-plus seat Stadium. DBAP seats 10,000, and considering Duke and North Carolina are in the tournament, good crowds should be expected for the tournament.
However, it is time for the ACC to do away with its pool-play format and go strictly a double-elimination tournament similar to the College World Series.
Florida State (40-14 overall, 19-9 in ACC) won the Atlantic Division and has the overall best record in the league. North Carolina (41-14, 19-10) won the Coastal Division on the final day of the regular season and earned the No. 2 seed and lead the two pools.
Florida State, which opens the tournament against Boston College (31-23, 13-15) at 4 p.m. today, is in the same pool with Georgia Tech (34-15-1, 17-10-1) and Miami (35-18, 18-12).
The Tar Heels, who have reached the College World Series three straight years losing each time in the championship game, begin their march to Omaha, Neb., today at 8 p.m. against rival Duke (34-22, 15-15). The Blue Devils, the No. 7 seed, took two of three from the Tar Heels in mid March in Chapel Hill.
The other two teams in North Carolina's pool are Clemson (39-17, 19-11) and Virginia (39-12-1, 16-11-1).
The tournament, which kicks off at noon with Georgia Tech entertaining Miami, could be wide open, with six clubs having a legitimate shot at hoisting the tournament championship come Sunday afternoon.
Six of the eight teams enter the tournament ranked by Baseball America. North Carolina is ranked sixth, Florida State is ranked 12th and followed by Clemson (13th), Georgia Tech (14th), Virginia (16th), and Miami (23rd).
Unfortunately, the pool format causes the tournament to lose some of its luster, especially come Saturday when you have the possibilities of two teams already eliminated from the championship just playing out the schedule.
It gives fans the opportunity to see their favorite team play at least three games, but does anyone want to see winless Duke playing a two-loss Virginia squad to avoid a last-place finish in pool play.
Instead Saturday could be the semifinals, where fans get to see a doubleheader of top-ranked teams slugging it out for a spot in Sunday's championship game.
This league lives and dies with basketball. So why not make the tournament similar to the basketball tournament with a double-elimination twist? Like the basketball tournament, every game counted, with teams battling to survive and advance.
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