The 2014 ACC baseball tournament kicks off on Tuesday, May 20 with two play-in games that will decide which two teams get to compete in pool play for a chance at an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
Yeah, you could say there's a lot on the line.
Only four teams will be in action on Day 1 of the tournament. North Carolina will take on NC State for the opportunity to compete in Pool B, while Georgia Tech and Wake Forest will do battle in order to play in Group A.
Each team had varying levels of success in the conference this season. The team that gets the early jump will likely have the advantage in a game with such high stakes, so it will be interesting to see which squads come out ready to play.
Below is the complete schedule for Day 1 of the tournament along with predictions for both games.
|ACC Tournament Schedule, Day 1|
|Game #||Date||Time (ET)||Matchup|
|1 (Pool B play-in)||May 20||11 a.m.||NC State vs. North Carolina|
|2 (Pool A play-in)||May 20||3 p.m.||Georgia Tech vs. Wake Forest|
NC State vs. North Carolina
These two bitter rivals last played about 11 months ago in the College World Series. The Tar Heels ousted the Wolfpack 7-0 in Omaha, Nebraska, and NC State will be looking for a much different result in Tuesday's game.
One could argue that the implications of this game are equally as high as last year in the CWS. The loser of the Pool B play-in game could still technically receive a bid to the NCAA tournament, but, realistically, the chances are very slim. The winner will move on to play in the round-robin tournament with the opportunity for an automatic bid.
Needless to say, these teams need to come out ready and willing to do everything necessary to win.
Each team struggled at times during ACC play. UNC was just 15-15 in the conference, and NC State was just behind it with a mark of 13-17. Of course, they didn't play each other.
NC State's Carlos Rodon will be the team's best weapon in the tournament. Currently the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the MLB draft, Rodon has been stellar this season—even if the Wolfpack have not been. The team has scored just two runs in his seven losses, but when he's on, sometimes one run is enough.
Rodon has history against UNC, via Aaron Beard of the New Orleans Advocate:
North Carolina coach Mike Fox has certainly seen Rodon at his best. In last year’s ACC tournament, Rodon held the Tar Heels to one hit and one run with 14 strikeouts in 10 innings during an 18-inning marathon. Two weeks later, Rodon was dominant in a complete-game win when the teams met in Omaha.
If Rodon is indeed on the bump, it's hard not to like NC State's chances of pulling off the upset. The team has yet to announce its starter, though UNC will counter with right-hander Taylore Cherry.
Prediction: NC State, 3-1
Georgia Tech vs. Wake Forest
Georgia Tech just barely made it into the ACC tournament field. It lost its final three ACC games of the season to top-ranked Virginia. Luckily, NC State also faltered toward the end of the season, thus opening a spot for the Yellow Jackets.
They'll have a tough go of things in the Pool A play-in game, as Wake Forest was 2-1 against them this season. The Demon Deacons outscored the Yellow Jackets 22-15 in the three-game set.
Hitting has been a problem for the Yellow Jackets all season. Tech coach Danny Hall stressed that the pitchers are not at fault for the team's inconsistencies this year, via Ken Sugiura of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "We’ve got to hit better. We can’t continue to stress our pitching staff the way we are now. To their credit, they’ve done a tremendous job. I know we’re capable of hitting better."
In a one-game series that will likely feature each staff's ace, the bats will need to wake up. Considering Tech's struggles against Wake this season (even aside from their struggles against quality pitching), it's hard to pick them in a one-game elimination contest.
Prediction: Wake Forest, 5-2