Following an intense day of play-in action on Day 1 of the ACC baseball tournament, the start of pool play promises to bring even more intriguing matchups. With potential berths to the NCAA tournament on the line, expect great play from every team competing for just two spots in the ACC championship.
After earning play-in spots into the bracket play, both No. 7 North Carolina and No. 9 Georgia Tech have to prove themselves early on in the ACC tournament. The Yellow Jackets will face off with No. 1 Miami while the Tar Heels draw No. 2 Florida State, two teams who appear set to clash on Sunday for the crown.
As for the first duel of the day, No. 5 Clemson looks to down upstart No. 4 Duke. Blue Devils coach Chris Pollard has come over from Appalachian State and changed the entire culture for the program. But will he be able to down Jack Leggett, who has two ACC tournament championships to his name?
With the second day of the ACC tournament set to start in a few hours, here's a look at the full schedule and predictions for each game.
|Visitor||Home||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|No. 5 Clemson||No. 4 Duke||11 a.m.||Fox Sports||WatchESPN|
|No. 9 Georgia Tech||No. 1 Miami||3 p.m.||Fox Sports||WatchESPN|
|No. 7 North Carolina||No. 2 Florida State||7 p.m.||Fox Sports||WatchESPN|
No. 5 Clemson vs. No. 4 Duke
After a season where the football and men's basketball teams made it to the ACC Championship Game, can Duke's baseball team finally win it all for the program?
Much of the team's sudden success is thanks to a huge senior class, led by Jordan Betts. A leader both offensively and defensively, the All-ACC Second Teamer spoke about the team's success, per Brett Friedlander of Star News Online:
We expected this, having such a big senior class this year. We really struggled when I got here four years ago. We were playing a lot of freshmen. ... As a class to go through all the disappointments and the lack of success, then to come out this year and play so well is tremendously gratifying. But while it’s gratifying, we’re not done yet.
They'll have to get through Leggett and the Tigers to assure their hopes are still alive.
In 20 seasons with the Tigers, Leggett has led the team to 19 NCAA tournament berths along with six College World Series appearances. Needless to say, the 60-year-old coach knows something about success.
The Clemson skipper referenced his confidence in his team heading into the postseason, via Aaron Brenner of The Post and Courier:
I think we're probably the team that I don't know if anybody would want to play us in the regional. I feel confident about what our team's capable of doing. I still believe in them, and I feel good about where we are right now.
(The ACC is a) very strong conference; I think it's all up for grabs. I don't think there's any clear-cut favorite, although a few teams have been playing more consistently than others throughout the course of the season. But I think it's going to be a very competitive tournament.
With both teams looking to start their postseason on the right note, the Tigers will continue Leggett's legacy of winning in the first meeting between the two teams this season.
Prediction: Clemson 5, Duke 2
No. 9 Georgia Tech vs. No. 1 Miami
Well, this is a familiar spot for Georgia Tech.
After winning their play-in game against Wake Forest, the Yellow Jackets are once again pitted against a high seed in No. 1 Miami. Last season, the team faced an equally daunting task in No. 2 Florida State, but was able to dismiss the Seminoles thanks to a game-winning home run by Mott Hyde in the ninth inning.
It was just the latest huge performance by Hyde in the ACC tournament, but he continued his great play on the big stage with his glove on Monday, per the ACC Baseball account:
Hyde also provided pop in the play-in game, nailing a triple in a huge inning for the Jackets. As for the Hurricanes, Aaron Fitt of Baseball America has the team as a potential national seed heading into the NCAA tournament:
This has not been a strong year for the ACC after the top three teams, so it seems counter-intuitive that the ACC could get three national seeds. But Virginia and Florida State have top-three RPIs and strong bodies of work, and Miami beat out both of them for the ACC’s regular-season crown. At No. 12 in the RPI and with an 8-9 record against the top 50, Miami’s other metrics are short for a national seed. The Hurricanes lost head-to-head series against FSU (out of conference) and UVa., but they did take two of three from SEC champion Florida. And the committee will surely consider Miami’s 27-3 record in its final 30 games—that momentum matters
It's hard to disagree after the season Miami has put together.
With a stout rotation that includes three players at or below a 3.15 ERA, an offense that has exploded late in the season and a certified closer in Bryan Garcia, the Canes look the part of the best team in the ACC.
Now it's time to prove it against a Jackets team that knows how to down top seeds, and did so twice this season during conference play.
Prediction: Miami 3, Georgia Tech 2
No. 7 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Florida State
Last year's ACC championship winner needed a play-in game just to compete for the crown this year.
Who will win the ACC tournament?
Let's just say it was a tough year for college baseball on Tobacco Road. UNC and N.C. State, two teams who made the College World Series last year and were hoping to get back, might not even earn a berth into the tournament this season.
Names like Wood Myers, Parks Jordan and Skye Bolt—as ridiculous as they sound—have helped the team find a way back to the ACC tournament in hopes of a title defense. And with Mike Fox still at the helm, betting against the Heels is typically a terrible idea this close to the NCAA tournament.
But Florida State is much more than just Jameis Winston. With offensive firepower like D.J. Thomas, John Nogowski, Jose Brizuela and Casey Smit—each of which are hitting over .300 along with a .400 on-base percentage—the Seminoles have a chance to win it all this week.
As for that rotation, Luke Weaver and Mike Compton each present equally nasty stuff to go along with a bullpen headlined by Gage Smith and Winston at the back end. Getting past the Noles will not only be tough for Carolina, but nearly impossible.
Prediction: Florida State 6, North Carolina 4
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter: