For some teams, Friday offers a chance for hope in the 2014 ACC tournament. For others, it will be nothing but despair.
Pool play, especially over three games, leaves little room for error. By the end of two games, you could be completely out of it.
That puts added pressure on Friday's and Saturday's matchups. By then, teams will have a general idea of what it will take to top their respective pools. They'll know whether they can afford to slip up or if one defeat dooms them to failure.
All three games on Day 4 of the tourney feature schools looking for that one crucial victory.
|ACC Tournament Schedule—Day 4|
|11 a.m.||No. 2 Florida State||No. 6 Maryland||Fox Sports|
|3 p.m.||No. 9 Georgia Tech||No. 5 Clemson||Fox Sports|
|7 p.m.||No. 3 Virginia||No. 7 North Carolina||Fox Sports|
Note: All games are available to live stream on ESPN3.
No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 6 Maryland
Neither Florida State nor Maryland can nail down a spot in the title game with a win on Friday, but their chances would be boosted. Both the Seminoles and the Terrapins won their first games of the tournament.
The Terps offense has been middling for most of the season, so the team's seven-run outburst against Virginia, in which it hit four home runs, came as a surprise to even head coach John Szefc.
"We are not a home run hitting team but obviously this ballpark plays differently than our home ballpark does," he said, per Sara D. Davis of theACC.com. "We were able to take advantage of it. You don't normally go out and expect to score seven runs against Virginia."
Don't be fooled too much by that win. That kind of offensive explosion is unlike Maryland.
On the other side, Florida State's offense has been one of its biggest strengths all season. The 'Noles are second in the conference in batting average (.280) and first in runs (379). Clemson is second with 332.
They got some unexpected production from the top and bottom of the order against North Carolina on Wednesday. The Nos. 1, 2, 8 and 9 batters combined to drive in six of FSU's seven runs. Florida State shouldn't expect to get that lucky again on Friday, but it should get more from D.J. Stewart, Jose Brizuela and John Nogowski, who combined for one RBI on 3-of-11 batting.
Winner: Florida State, 6-2
No. 9 Georgia Tech vs. No. 5 Clemson
Clemson is sitting pretty through its first two games. After beating Miami on Thursday, the Tigers are one win away from clinching a spot in the championship.
This is the school's best start to the ACC tournament since 2006, when it won the whole thing, per Tim Bourret, Clemson football's sports information director:
For a visual representation of how everything is coming up Tigers in the ACC tournament, look no further than shortstop Jay Baum's incredible play against the Hurricanes:
Georgia Tech fell back to earth after it beat Wake Forest in the play-in game and then followed up with a victory over Miami. The bats went silent in a 6-0 loss to Duke.
Everything points to a Clemson win on Friday. The Tigers are getting timely hits from Steve Wilkerson and Steven Duggar, and the bullpen has given up three hits and one run over the last two games.
Winner: Clemson, 4-0
No. 3 Virginia vs. No. 7 North Carolina
This game serves as a title eliminator, as Virginia and North Carolina lost their first games in pool play of the ACC tournament.
The Tar Heels looked every bit the No. 7 seed on Wednesday, falling 7-1 to Florida State. Taylore Cherry gave up six runs in 5.1 innings, and his offense could muster only six hits. The bigger loss might have been leading hitter Michael Russell, who left the game with a sore back, per Carolina Baseball:
If the star shortstop is still hobbled by game time on Friday, UNC could be in major trouble. Russell is the catalyst for the offense, and taking him out of the lineup leaves a major void.
Virginia head coach Brian O'Connor gambled a bit against Maryland by starting Artie Lewicki, but he's not going to make a similar mistake against North Carolina and is opting for Brandon Waddell instead:
Waddell is 7-3 for the season with a 2.90 ERA. The sophomore lefty isn't overpowering, but he finds a way to get batters out.
That should be good enough to get past what could be a weakened Tar Heels offense.
Winner: Virginia, 5-3