Saturday was "Decision Day" at the 2014 ACC baseball tournament. With Maryland already locked into Sunday's championship game after winning its first two games, Pool A action stood to be another potential shocker.
Top-seeded Miami's chances were vanquished via back-to-back losses. All that the Hurricanes were playing for Saturday was a chance to play spoiler for rival Duke. The Blue Devils were a win away from a championship run after their 6-0 win over Georgia Tech on Thursday afternoon. With a day of rest and only a reeling Miami squad standing in their way, the it seemed closer than ever.
A Duke loss, though, would result in one of the most unlikely final matchups in recent tournament history.
Georgia Tech, a No. 9 seed that needed to win a play-in game to even reach pool play, stood to have its Cinderella run cemented with a Hurricanes victory. Dusty Isaacs and Sam Clay combined for a four-hit shutout of Clemson on Friday, giving them the head-to-head tiebreaker in the event they're the only 2-1 teams.
Though not playing, perhaps no team had more on the line Saturday than Georgia Tech.
The day's latter two contests had little bearing on the tournament result but did carry other intrigue. Maryland's afternoon matchup with North Carolina gave a little insight into how far the Terrapins were willing to take their foot off the gas. They stood to be the only undefeated team going into Sunday with a win.
In the nightcap, Virginia and Florida State battle in a clash of arguably the conference's best teams. It wasn't the de facto Pool B championship game the way many expected, but with so many high-profile players in the contest, it was a nice litmus test for both sides.
|ACC Baseball Championship Game Viewing Info|
|Sunday, May 25 at 1 p.m.||Georgia Tech vs. Maryland||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
North Carolina 13, Maryland 7
There will be no undefeated team at the 2014 ACC baseball tournament.
Sparked by six-run eighth inning and a dominant day overall from their bats, North Carolina took down Pool B winner Maryland, 13-7, to hand the Terrapins their first loss in Greensboro.
In their last year in the ACC, the Terrapins are a surprise finalist in what many deemed the Pool of Death. Florida State and Virginia spent most of their years high on the national rankings—only for an upstart Maryland team to top both in back-to-back games.
The undefeated bid evaporated, however, when a long-dormant North Carolina offense came to life. The Tar Heels scored in each of the first two innings and added a four spot in the fifth to take a commanding 7-2 lead.
When Maryland came back with a five-run seventh to tie the game, it took North Carolina an inning and a half to come back with a big frame of its own. The Heels hit six singles in the bottom of the eighth, including a stretch of four straight hits. The result was six runs, a comfortable cushion and only three outs remaining.
Alex Raburn turned a game-ending double play in the ninth, as North Carolina finishes its ACC tournament 2-2. Overall, the Tar Heels had 15 hits and even left some runs on the board. Their seven left on base eclipsed Maryland's five despite the Terrapins having 13 hits of their own.
Saturday proved a surprising awakening for the Carolina bats. In losses to Virginia and Florida State, North Carolina managed to score a combined three runs. The team's 13 runs against Maryland ties a season high.
While disappointed their comeback bid went for naught, the Terrapins have far more pressing matters at hand Sunday. They play Georgia Tech on Sunday afternoon for a chance to take their first conference title in more than four decades. The Yellow Jackets were only a No. 9 seed coming into the tournament, but have eight titles in total and most recently won in 2012.
Both teams will throw the proverbial kitchen sink at one another in an effort to clinch this title. We'll just have to see which Cinderella the slipper fits.
Miami (Florida) 6, Duke 5
Try as they might, Miami couldn't knock off Duke in nine innings. So the Hurricanes did it in 12.
A wild pitch scored Jacob Heyward, Zack Collins sent through a solo home run and Javi Salas held off another Blue Devils rally, as Miami defeated Duke, 6-5, in extra innings to get its only win of the ACC tournament.
The loss knocks Duke out of contention for the ACC final and sends a surprising Georgia Tech team to face Maryland. The Blue Devils were looking for their first tournament final appearances in school history.
“It’s a big win, tough one,” Miami coach Jim Morris said, per the ACC's official website. “I tell you what, this conference is tough. For the people that were in here the first day, I said at the press conference that anybody can win in this tournament, 1 through 10. If I’m not wrong, it looks like we're going to have a 9 6 seed playing for the Championship.
Despite never leading and trailing from the opening inning, Duke very nearly pulled off the unthinkable. Down 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth, pinch hitter Chris Perez knocked through his first career home run to tie the ballgame. The two sides went quietly through the 10th and 11th innings, though, and the Blue Devils seemingly never got engaged until it was the last possible second.
Heyward's leadoff double and a sacrifice bunt by Dale Cary put him on third in a perfect time to score for the wild pitch. Collins' home run later in the inning wound up being key, as Duke again came roaring back to nearly tie it again.
Jordan Betts walked, Chris Marconcini singled him to second and Mike Rosenfeld knocked him in with another single to make the game 6-5 with one out remaining. With Marconcini standing on third base and 90 feet away from sending the game to the 13th inning, Salas came in and struck Matt Berezo out looking to end the game.
The Hurricanes' victory allows them to remain undefeated against Duke for the season and keeps their NCAA tournament hopes in good shape. Had the Blue Devils advanced to the final, they would have been able to steal a berth that could now go to Miami.
This was technically the day's only meaningful game. As far as performing when needed goes, Miami got the job done. Expect the gift cards from Georgia Tech to arrive in the mail any day now.
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