With the 2014 ACC tournament reaching its halfway point in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday, time is already running out for those teams who started off pool play in defeat.
Two wins will be the minimum qualification in order to finish top of the pool and qualify for Sunday's championship. That means Miami, Duke and North Carolina will have a lot of work to do over the next two days in order to keep alive their title hopes.
A pair of those teams will be in action on Thursday, so Wednesday's failures can be quickly wiped away.
|ACC Tournament Schedule—Day 3|
|11 a.m.||No. 6 Maryland||No. 3 Virginia||Fox Sports|
|3 p.m.||No. 4 Duke||No. 9 Georgia Tech||Fox Sports|
|7 p.m.||No. 1 Miami||No. 5 Clemson||Fox Sports|
Note: All ACC tournament games are available to live stream on ESPN3.
No 3 Virginia vs. No. 6 Maryland
The sixth-seeded Maryland Terrapins will have their work cut out for them in their first game of the ACC tournament. They take on the Virginia Cavaliers, who, despite holding the No. 3 seed in the tournament, rank No. 1 in the all-important RPI.
These two teams didn't play one another during the regular season, so there isn't a reference point from which to start breaking down Wednesday's game.
Virginia head coach Brian O'Connor surprised some when he opted for right-hander Artie Lewicki ahead of Nathan Kirby for Wednesday's game, per Virginia Baseball:
Lewicki started seven games during the regular season and posted a 5-1 record, 1.34 earned run average, 38 strikeouts and just seven walks over 40.1 innings pitched. Opposing batters also hit a paltry .155 against the senior hurler.
Maryland will be relying on Brandon Lowe and Jose Cuas to provide the offensive spark. Although Lowe doesn't hit for power, he is second in RBI (36), while his batting average (.345), slugging percentage (.469) and on-base percentage (.468) are all tops on the Terps. Cuas is the heavy hitter, with his five homers and 38 RBIs leading the team.
Lewicki should be too much for Maryland to overcome, though.
Winner: Virginia, 3-1
No. 9 Georgia Tech vs. No. 4 Duke
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are riding high after a win against Wake Forest on Tuesday and then victory over the top-seeded Miami Hurricanes on Wednesday. Postseason tournaments can often be decided by which team is hotter, and Tech has won its last four games in a row and five of its last six.
The Yellow Jackets scored five runs over the last three innings to down the Hurricanes, proving that they can score in bunches.
Head coach Danny Hall said, per Georgia Tech's official site:
I thought it was an outstanding college baseball game. I said it yesterday it seems like every game in this league is very hotly contested and usually comes down to somebody getting a two-out hit like Brandon Gold did today. It's a great start for us. We're happy to win, and we're going to play a good Duke team tomorrow.
Georgia Tech should be able to keep its streak alive.
Duke entered the ACC tournament ranked 78th in RPI, and the Blue Devils are fresh off a 5-3 defeat at the hands of Clemson. Unlike Georgia Tech, Duke appears to be struggling at the exact opposite time. It has dropped six of its last eight games after Wednesday.
While the Yellow Jackets can't counter the Blue Devils' power-hitting duo of Chris Marconcini and Ryan Deitrich, they have a far more balanced attack with four player driving in at least 32 runs.
Winner: Georgia Tech, 5-2
No. 5 Clemson vs. No. 1 Miami
Although the Hurricanes boast the top seed in the ACC tournament, they still have some work to do if they want to lock up a national seed in the College World Series. Sitting 12th in the RPI, they can't afford to bow out early in Greensboro.
Matt Porter of The Palm Beach Post ventures that one win for Miami should mean earning the national seed:
If Miami is to prevail on Thursday, it will have to get more production from down in the order. The four through nine hitters went a combined 3-for-23 against Georgia Tech.
A similarly sluggish performance against Clemson and the Canes will start out the tournament with two losses. The Tigers are hitting .277 as a team (fifth in the conference) but sit second in slugging percentage (.387) and runs scored (324).
Clemson has enough offensive firepower to put Miami away, but the Hurricanes shouldn't be panicking just yet. In 2012, they lost their opener and then went on to make the championship game:
As long as Zack Collins and Dale Carey get some support, Miami should get into the win column in Greensboro.
Winner: Miami, 4-2